Sunday, April 20, 2008
Smoke on the Water. . . and Land
Here's a NASA satellite photo showing smoke stretching all along the Parana where I live to the Rio de la Plata in city of Buenos Aires. It apparently is due to fires raging on the islands being cleared for cattle. The smoke has created a haze over the region, disruption air travel and transport on the Pan American Highway.
I've seen those fires before, rather eerie at midnight, while crossing the 65-kilometer bridge-island-bridge-island-etc from Rosario to Victoria. No one ever expressed any concern, though occasionally the toll booths put up a warning sign about the smoke. But these fires are out of control, possibly due to the late summer dryness, which followed early spring floods that stranded plenty of cattle that could not be evacuated. (We had island cattle refugees hanging around any available pasture in San Nicolas for months. Of course the government did not show any interest in the island farmers' problems.)
My husband and friends give me updates on the situation while I travel, and I am grateful that they are fine. I also feel lucky not to be struggling to breath there. Boy, after the farm strike, this disaster. . . which the President and Interior Minister have blamed on farmers, calling burning illegal. I don't know why they burn to clear, although the difficult access to the islands probably means it is a lot more economical than lugging farm equipment by barges to the hundreds of islands dotting the Parana.
I am not justifying this, but will note that laws in Argentina are enforced rather selectively as everyone knows. Somehow I have a sense that some farmers are about to feel the full force of Presidential fury in the aftermath of the farm strike. Let's hope folks do not confuse a few island farmers who are responsible for this with "the farm community" in general. (Besides, do we know who actually set these fires?)
It's another sad situation in Argentina.
Posted by Gayle at 11:17 AM