Smoke from wildfires have spread hundreds of kilometres into the Colombian Amazon, impacting air quality in the capital Bogota.

In this handout picture released by the Colombian Defense Ministry smoke rises from a forest fire in Chiribiquete National Natural Park, in the northwest of the Colombian Amazon on February 4, 2022.
In this handout picture released by the Colombian Defense Ministry smoke rises from a forest fire in Chiribiquete National Natural Park, in the northwest of the Colombian Amazon on February 4, 2022. (Karen Salamanca / Colombian Defense Ministry / AFP)

Forest fires that have raged for days in Colombia's Amazon put its Andean capital, Bogota, on an environmental alert as bad air quality spanned an area the size of greater Paris, authorities said.

Wind carried smoke from several fires blamed on armed groups some 350 kilometres (220 miles) to the northwest, all the way to the Colombian capital.

Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez said on Twitter on Saturday that more than half of the capital's air quality monitoring stations have been off the charts for the past 48 hours.

"That is why, as an environmental protection measure" the city has issued an environmental alert, she wrote.

Lopez urged her city's eight million people to refrain from physical activities outdoors in the coming days.

The first month of 2022 was the hottest for the Colombian Amazon in the last decade, leading to an increase in forest fires in the southeastern region and very likely impacting air quality in the capital Bogota, according to an official report.
The first month of 2022 was the hottest for the Colombian Amazon in the last decade, leading to an increase in forest fires in the southeastern region and very likely impacting air quality in the capital Bogota, according to an official report. (Karen Salamanca / Colombian Defense Ministry / AFP)

'Red alert'

Authorities have blamed the fires on former rebels who did not accept the 2016 peace deal with the government, saying that they burn trees to raise cattle on the land.

In the central province of Guaviare, governor Haydeer Palacio, declared a "red alert" due to forest fires that have engulfed 10,000 hectares of land, an area similar to the total area of the French capital.

January of this year was the hottest month in the Colombian Amazon in a decade, also leading to an increase in forest fires in the southeastern region and very likely impacting air quality in the capital, according to an Environment Ministry report seen by AFP Friday.

Source: AFP