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From January to August, 1,407,914 hectares of forest land were burned across the country due to wildfires.
On Thursday, Bolivia’s Civil Defense Vice Minister Juan Calvimontes informed that about 95 percent of the forest fires that started in the Beni and Santa Cruz departments on Aug. 1 are practically off.
“Currently, there are only fires in San Matias municipality, in Santa Cruz department, where the Army and fire brigades remain to prevent fire from causing great havoc,” Calvimontes explained, adding that all fires will be contained by next week.
From January to August, 1,407,914 hectares of forest land were burned across the country due to due to wildfires, according to data from the Forestry and Land Social Control and Oversight Authority (ABT).
Around 67 percent of the affected area corresponds to Chiquitania, a region of transition between the northern Amazon, the Chaco plains in the south, and the southeastern Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world.
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The departments where the fires originated are the same areas where the 2019 and 2020 mass fires started. At least 58 notices of appearance were issued to the owners of these lands given that President Luis Arce’s administration considers the fires were intentional.
In Bolivia and other South American countries, it is traditional to burn land to transform forests into agricultural areas or clean the land for the next planting season. The practice, known as "chaqueo", is legal in Bolivia by authorization between May and July, after the end of the wet season.
The law allows controlled fires of up to 20 hectares, but some landowners burn larger areas or generate fires outside the deadline. The fine for illegal burning is is US$1 per hectare and is charged for the entire length of the property, no matter how much it has been burned. If the burning results in a major fire, the penalty can be up to three years in prison.The Arce administration assured that the Attorney General’s Office has already initiated investigations for year’s wildfires.
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