Why can’t forest fires be prevented?
Forest engineer Yücel Çağlar is very knowledgeable on the issue of our country’s forests. It would not be too much of an exaggeration if we were to say he has dedicated himself to the forests.
Çağlar said while seven to eight million villagers who live within and in the vicinity of forests continue their agriculture and husbandry activities within or in the vicinity of forests; over time they have become unfamiliar with the forests and the implementations in forestry.
When I asked why we could not prevent forest fires, Çağlar did not provide the usual answers, blaming picnickers or weather conditions.
There is more than one reason according to Çağlar.
First of all, the system based on forest patrol officers is being eroded. The relevant authority might object to this claim by saying they recruit forest patrol officers each year.
But while the numbers of forest patrol officers in 2000 was 8,196, the number has gone down to 6,153 for 2013. The protection of forests is being left to forest village legal entities, but one should not forget that they are not equipped, nor do they have the authority required for the protection of forests.
If you were to ask, “What should be done?”
In the rural areas especially, the lack of personnel needs to be alleviated. The areas of responsibility need to be downsized so that they can work more efficiently.
While growing new forests, there is not enough effort to set up structures to secure forests against fires, according to Çağlar. He also believes the techniques to prevent the accumulation of flammable material is not sufficiently used.
Indeed, the project called YARDOP (the project to rehabilitate forests that were subjected to fires and create fire resistant forests) has started.
Yet, Çağlar said, “One should not forget YARDOP came to the agenda in a very hasty manner after the 2010 fire in Manavgat and is very controversial as far as ecological, technical, economic and societal dimensions.”
There are 12 million hectares of our forests that are sensitive to fire on the first degree.
Only two million is covered by YARDOP, while the project is actually only implemented on 1.1 million hectares.
The problem is that the forestry department lacks well-trained and equipped personnel. Indeed, an international training center to extinguish fires has been set up in Antalya and 19,000 personnel received training. But they are being dispersed to every corner of the country and there is no arrangement as to make the appointments according to the conditions of forests and forestry.
Çağlar put forward three questions:
1-How many personnel, how many institutions do we have with expertise on the prevention and extinguishing of fires?
2-How wide are the forested areas that are under the responsibility of the administrations that are supposed to extinguish fires?
3-How many technical personnel are there in the forestry departments, while thousands of forestry engineers are looking for work?