Turkey is grappling with forest fires as temperatures continue to soar. Agricultural lands and settlements were evacuated across several provinces at the weekend.
Sixteen of Sunday’s fires have been brought under control. Efforts to contain three remaining blazes, located in south Turkey’s Mersin, earthquake-stricken Hatay, and the northwest province of Çanakkale are ongoing.
First and second-degree fire-prone zones constitute 60 percent of Turkey’s forests. During 2021, over 206,000 hectares were ravaged by forest fires, killing thousands of animals of varying species, according to European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) data. Turkey topped the list among 39 countries in terms of the largest forest area burned.
Environmental scientists warn that as the climate crisis intensifies, the duration and intensity of forest fires will further increase. More effective environmental policies must be developed by governments to protect forests as crucial carbon sinks that work to mitigate global warming, specialists emphasise.
The Turkish government has faced criticism in recent years for failing to invest in systems that could detect and respond to fires early, as well as condemnation for increasing fire risk by handing out permits for non-forestry activities such as mining, energy production, and tourism within forested areas.
On-the-ground teams do not have access to sufficient resources and equipment to enable early intervention, forestry policy experts claim, attributing major 2020 and 2021 fires in Turkey to a lack of adequate government funding for prevention and fire fighting.