Everything’s on Fire: Devastation in Argentina’s Paraná River Delta

We’ve been hearing a lot about recent fires rampaging California, the “new normal” as they now call it. But the new normal is actually worldwide.

Just now, only because I read in Spanish daily, did I become aware of the widespread fires sweeping vast areas in South America that dwarf what’s been happening in California.

While most of you know about the Amazon fires in Brazil, I’ll venture only a few of you know about the vast Paraná delta wetlands of Argentina. In fact, I hadn’t previously heard of the Paraná, South America’s second longest river after the Amazon and eighth longest in the world.

As I write, multiple fires that began seven months ago continue to ravage this eco-sensitive marshland landscape, home to unique plant and animal life, with the smoke so intense it threatens the health of population centers like Rosario and Buenas Aires

Sadly, farmers and ranchers in the river’s Brazil basin have contributed to the fire menace and made things worse, lighting fires to clear land.

In Argentina, ganaderos, or ranchers, follow their example, annually igniting fires to regenerate grazing land and, so far, there isn’t any law to stop them in this country of heavy meat consumption and export.

Some have speculated arson by real estate speculators may be a contributory cause for this year’s fires. The land can be sold for real estate once the trees are gone. Two men have been charged with arson so far.

When rain does comes, it’s only in brief showers unable to penetrate the hardened, parched earth. While Environment Minister Juan Cabandié has openly accused ranchers of causing the fires, they deny it, arguing it isn’t in their interest and blaming the government for neglect instead.

As is, some 11,000 fires detected this year have razed an estimated 540 square kilometers of marshland, or three times the size of Buenas Aires.

Concurrently, the Argentine government is sponsoring a wetlands protection bill to protect the delta, but it must be approved by the Congress. As is, it lacks teeth. It doesn’t prohibit ranchers and farmers from their yearly ritual of burning grazing land.

Long term weather projections show little rain likely to occur. Meanwhile, some 750 unique animal species of the delta, already diminished by both climate change and humans, face imminent extinction.



Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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