Fires are raging in the Amazon, despite a Brazil government ban. The destruction could be worse than last summer

A satellite photo shows fires in Sao Felix do Xingu, in Pará province, on August 4, 2020

(CNN)The Brazilian government banned fires in the Amazon in mid-July -- yet there were far more fires last month than the year before, further degrading one of the world's most precious natural resources.

Last year's destructive fires caused international alarm, and this summer could be even worse, according to experts.
The Amazon is considered vital in slowing global warming, and it is home to uncountable species of fauna and flora. Roughly half the size of the United States, it is the largest rainforest on the planet.
    In July, the number of fires increased by 28% compared with the same month a year ago, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), a federal institute that monitors fires and deforestation.
      Such fires are typically used to clear any remaining vegetation from parts of the forest that have already been cut down -- preparing the soil for illicit pasture planting and cattle raising. July's increase occurred despite a federal decree forbidding for 120 days fires for farming or other purposes in the Amazon and the tropical wetland area known as the Pantanal.
      There were 6,803 fires in July, vs 5,318 a year ago, according to INPE, making it the worst July since 2017. When compared to the first six months of last year, the total fire rates for Brazil's Amazon habitat known as the biome, which spreads through 9 states, had actually dropped by 7.6% in 2020. But, data for the two largest states -- Amazonas and Pará -- showed over 2,000 fires in the period, an increase of 35% from a year ago.
      Since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019, deforestation has been on the increase with a nearly 30% jump in the number of fires compared to 2018, according to INPE.
      Satellite photo of Itaituba before deforestation in June 20, 2020