11,781 hectares of forest land damaged by fires in 2017: Minister
Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu has said that 11,781 hectares of forest land were damaged by fires, adding that 2017 has been Turkey’s driest year in the past 44 years.
In his presentation of the ministry’s 2018 budget in the parliament’s Committee on Planning and Budget on Nov. 21, Eroğlu said a total of 2,315 fires erupted since the beginning of the year.
“We extinguish fires in a very short period of time, but cooling down works take between a couple of days and 10 days,” Eroğlu said, adding that allegations that fires were being extinguished in 10 days were false.
During the meeting, Eroğlu also shared figures on the ministry’s efforts in increasing the number of green areas across Turkey.
“We increased the number of protected areas to 553 from 175 in the past 15 years. The number of national parks was also increased to 42 from 33, and we have 222 natural parks,” Eroğlu said, adding that 45 action plans regarding the protection of species were prepared.
“While there was 20.8 million hectares of forest land in 2002, we increased the number to 22.3 million hectares. Some 3.8 billion young trees were planted between 2003 and 2017,” he said.
In his presentation, the minister said 44 percent of Istanbul consisted of forest land.
“Contrary to general belief, we not only protect trees but also take care of all flora, fauna and wild life. A high number of winged [species] are breeding and we have put several endangered species, including deer and bald ibis, under protection. Moreover, we are feeding animals during winter,” Eroğlu said.
Turning to the subject of trees being cut down for construction projects, Eroğlu said the ministry plants trees five times bigger than those cut down.
“It’s obligatory to build some facilities. For instance, if a road is going to be built or an airport is going to be constructed, it may cross through a forest. We are careful with planting trees five times the size of those cut down. We are also building ecological bridges, especially if a road gets separated,” he also said.