La Paz, November 20 (EFE).- The Bolivian government ordered the suspension of classes starting this Monday in three areas affected by forest fire smoke, which also caused cancellations and delays of commercial flights in the last hours.
“Considering the high rates of environmental pollution, we have decided to suspend educational activities in some educational districts in Santa Cruz, Beni and the north of La Paz,” Education Minister Edgar Parry told the media.
The minister reminded that the 2023 school administration will end on December 8, but assured that for officials “protecting the health of students is a priority.”
Cities like Santa Cruz or La Paz have woken up in recent weeks to smoke from fires burning in forest and agricultural areas covering the sky.
Edgar Montano, Minister of Public Works, Services and Housing, reported that the smoke also caused “delays and disruptions” to commercial flights, especially in the areas of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Beni.
So far, the day with the most incidents was Sunday, when out of a total of 112 flights scheduled for that day, 12 flights were canceled and 63 were delayed, Montaño detailed this Monday.
The minister indicated that about 1,500 passengers were affected by the cancellations and delays, adding, “It is the fault of some people who are setting fires in fields and forests.”
“We have to ensure the lives of our passengers and the rules clearly say that at visibility of 1,600 meters we can give them the green light to continue operating. But yesterday the visibility dropped to less than 600 metres, a lot of smoke. Was,” he lamented.
The Bolivian government reported that the number of heat sources in the country increased from 2,434 to 1,006 due to rainfall in several affected areas between Sunday and Monday.
According to officials, the active fire points are in Beni’s tourist towns of Rurrenbach and San Buenaventura in La Paz, the gateway to the Madidi National Park, the most biodiverse in the world.
Additionally, there are also active fires in the towns of Urubicha in Santa Cruz and the towns of San Ignacio de Moxos and San Borja in Benin.
The Santa Cruz government reported a dozen deaths in recent days due to respiratory disorders caused by the pollution, which Health Minister Maria Renee Castro denied on Monday.
According to Castro, these deaths were caused by “heat stroke” registered in Santa Cruz and he noted that many of the deceased had underlying diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
Castro reported that the environmental pollution index in Santa Cruz had decreased from 263 to 156 between Sunday and today, although La Paz had recorded an increase from 90 to 140 over the same period.
The executive has asked for support from Brazil, Chile, France and Venezuela to combat the wildfires and said about 30 Venezuelan firefighters are already in the Bolivian region with that mission.
In recent weeks, indigenous peoples, activists and environmental NGOs have called on Luis Arce’s government to declare a “national disaster” due to the fires.
They also demand the repeal of regulations that authorize certain years of controlled burning, or ‘chaqueos’, which is carried out in rural areas to prepare land for planting or grazing.
The biologists’ colleges in La Paz and Cochabamba warned in a statement that the fires “are contributing to future drought, putting agriculture and livestock in the Altiplano at serious risk,” because rains in that region are dependent on moisture coming from the Amazon region. Depend on.
The private Tierra Foundation, which specializes in sustainable rural development, warns that in the seven years of validity of one of the laws demanded by environmentalists, authorized approvals were not assigned to food production, as is the purpose of the norm in question. efe