Wildfires raging in Bolivia’s forests since May have destroyed 1.7 million hectares, amid an $11 million effort by the government to contain them, said officials on Wednesday.
Environmentalists accuse the laws promulgated by leftist President Evo Morales, who has encouraged the burning of forests and pastures to increase agricultural production, while the government attributes these torches to dry weather and winds.
“Of the fires that have occurred, 41 percent are in protected areas and 30 percent are in forests,” Cinthia Asin, environmental minister for the eastern region of Santa Cruz told the press, updating the amount of land burned to 1.7 million hectares.
Much to environmentalists’ chagrin, Bolivia’s government recently authorized farmers to burn 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) instead of the usual five hectares (12 acres) which is believed to have contributed to thousands of wildfires.
Separately, the Bolivian government reported that it was continuing its land and air efforts to extinguish the fires.
Foreign Minister Diego Pary said that the executive branch had spent $11 million fighting the fires and had an additional $2 million at its disposal from international cooperation.
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