Hot Topic in Turkey: Forest-Fire Prevention


The smoke from a 2008 forest fire in Turkey reached all the way to Cyprus, 75 kilometers off the country's southern coast. Photo via NASA's Earth Observatory.

Summer is when Istanbul flings open its doors, when restaurants sweep off their rooftop terraces, cafe tables spill into the streets, and the sound of music festivals fills the night air. But the season of sun and fun is also, as it is in many other places, the season of forest fires--and their effects won't fade when the crisp fall weather returns.
A 2003 fire on Burgazada, one of the popular islands about an hour-and-a-half long boat ride away from the city, wiped out half of its 80 acres of forest, including some 20,000 trees. After six years, "the newly planted trees have barely reached a quarter of the size of the original" ones, reports the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. Said Island Mayor Mustafa Farsakoğlu:

Forest fires cause great damage to the environment, ecosystems, and the economy, and it takes years to replenish burnt-out areas, therefore we need to take the appropriate precautions to prevent them now. Each forest is extremely unique. They each hold hundreds of different species of wildlife and ecosystems that are almost impossible to replace.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, since statistics were first kept in 1937, 1,549,506 hectares of forest have burned down in 72,316 forest fires around the country, 94 percent of which were either caused by negligence and carelessness or set deliberately. The Mediterranean province of Antalya was hit last summer with Turkey's largest forest fire to date: It destroyed at least 4,000 hectares of forest, including 2.5 million trees, and 60 homes, causing more than $1 billion in damage and taking six days to put out.

At that rate, the price tag of prevention is bound to seem comparatively cheap. One of the country's top industrial conglomerates, Koç Holding, this week launched a joint project with the environmental group Green Information Platform (website in Turkish) to raise awareness about forest fires and the need to be more careful with litter, cigarettes, and barbecues. The company has also pledged to spend $1 billion on recycling and forest-regeneration projects over the next four years.

More on forest fires:
Giant Robot to Clear Cut Trees, Fight Forest Fires?
Tree-Powered Forest Fire Alert Network Gets Its Power From Bioenergy
U.S. Forest Service Takes Aim at Global Warming
Homes Built on the Fringes of Forests
Restore Fire-Resistant Longleaf Pines, Get Clean Energy
L.A. Demands Fire-Fighting Goats
The Burn Belt: Fire Predictions 'Out West'

Tags: Conservation | Forestry | Natural Disasters | Turkey