Monday, November 16, 2015

Wildfires in the Chapada Diamantina

Sad to see that Chapada National Park and surrounding towns in the Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, Brazil, are burning.

According to César Gonçalves, the acting director of Chapada National Park, the situation is “out of control.”

In this video in Portuguese (beware the 30 sec. ad), the park director on Nov. 16 reiterates that the fire is out of control, but then comes the Secretary of the Environment Eugenio Spengler who insists that, no, really, it’s under control. Except that the aerial views in this video look anything but.

I backpacked there in January 2013, and it was a gorgeous respite from the city. I immediately felt at home there, as if a sudden calm had overtaken me, quieting any anxieties. That first night, I slept a deep sleep, and awakened late to bird song, a kind of symphony the likes of which I'd never heard. I ceased all motion, laying only in the hammock in the yellow-green sea of grasses, listening for hours. After I finally budged to breakfast with a sleepwalker's motions, I went out to walk. Yellow butterflies glutted the air of the valley of Capão, as if it were enchanted. I know that I was –- enchanted, that is.

Gonçalves said that they have three separate fires, “one in Ibicioara, where Ibama [the federal environmental agency] is combating areas that lay outside the park; a big fire in the north region of the park, between the municipalities of Lençóis e Palmeiras; and one in Morro Branco, in the Valley of Capão.”

As of Nov. 14, the fourth day of the fires, there didn’t seem to be any improvement in containment. An initial fire began on Nov. 12, near to the Mucugezinho River, which separates the towns of Lençóis and Palmeiras. Dry air, lack of rain, and strong winds have spread the fires.

Residents of the region complain that the quantity of professionals and volunteers combating the fire is insufficient. Residents of Bahia who feel that the government is allocating insufficient resources to fight the fires are organizing around the hashtag #soschapadadiamantina

On Nov. 14, police detained a man suspected of lighting the fire in the park. Gildásio Miranda Silva, native of the nearby town of Mucugê, was arrested after being caught in the act of lighting the fire, according to the Jornal da Chapada.

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