LA PAZ – Wildfires in Bolivia have torched two million hectares (4.9 million acres) of forest and grassland since August, including some environmentally protected areas, officials said Monday.
One cabinet minister decried the “macabre game” of fires being put out, then reset behind the backs of firefighters by “saboteurs.” Cinthia Asin, environmental minister for the eastern region of Santa Cruz, urged President Evo Morales to declare a national disaster to broaden firefighting efforts and better channel international aid.
Santa Cruz is the hardest hit of Bolivia’s departments since the fires began in May and intensified in late August.
“We’ve had more than two million hectares of land burnt” in Santa Cruz, said Asin. “We’ve already gone nearly one month (with this problem) and a national disaster has yet to be declared.”
Asin said that blazes have destroyed nearly 900,000 hectares of protected areas. Most affected are the Otuquis and San Matias areas of eastern Bolivia, rich in diverse flora and fauna.
Defense Minister Javier Zavaleta said that people have been found illegally restarting fires in places where the blazes have been put out.