Fire destroys indigenous lands of Maranhão, Brazil

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Forest fires continue to burn through the Arariboia Indigenous Lands of the Brazilian Amazon, home to the Guajajara people and the mostly  isolated community of Awá Guajá people. A team from Greenpeace Brazil recently documented the fires through overflights of the burning forest.  The fire,  one of the largest ever recorded in Brazilian Indigenous Lands, has raged out of control for two months.

In an aerial survey  of the main hotspots of the Arariboia Indigenous Land, the research team documented the fire advancing on  villages and dense forest areas located at the heart of Indigenous Lands. The forest fire has already consumed approximately 190,000 of the 413,000 hectares that comprise the Indigenous Lands.

The Guajajara claim that the fires were set by loggers in retaliation for the Guajajara’s work to combat  illegal logging activities. Along with the help of six firemen from the Maranhão State Corps of Firefighters, 48 Guajajara are currently working to fight the fires inside the Araribóia Indigenous Land.

The lack of an effective policy in Brazil to protect Indigenous Lands allows illegal logging to continue and increases the risk fires like this pose in other lands. The degradation of the Amazon caused by illegal logging makes the forest more vulnerable to future fires.