Turkey’s Efforts to Combat and Prevent Forest Fires

Disasters have been defined by United Nations (UN) as natural events that disrupt the socio-economic and socio-cultural activities of the community significantly, causing life and material losses that “cannot be coped with local capabilities.” Turkey has been facing several major “Natural Disasters” in recent years.

The most recent disaster was two consecutive earthquakes within 24 hours that shattered a considerable part of the country and claimed over 50.000 lives on February 6th, 2023. Nothing could be done to stop the earthquake; however, preventive precautions could have been taken to minimize the adverse effect of the event. Unfortunately, the conversion of the existing housing stocks to new buildings resistant to earthquakes up to 9 Richter scale could not be completed in the last decades.

The Government has allocated massive sources since February 6th to renovate the buildings in the affected area. The production of container-type housing units has been accelerated to replace the tents the survivors live in. A good number of NGOs, municipalities, and Governments initiated campaigns to raise funds to help build these units.

The other two significant disasters Turkey has faced recently are forest fires and floods. Extreme weather conditions could be one reason for the heavy rainfalls, but the uncontrolled floods could be minimized to have less damage to the environment, humans, and the economy. Despite huge pressure from the public, unfortunately, the changes that should be implemented in the riverbeds, housing locations, and drainage systems are far behind schedule. The government allocated the financial resources to other avenues due to recent elections in the country. Unfortunately, Turkish society, in general, has a short memory as far as disasters are concerned.

Examples of best practices could be the actions taken to fight against forest fires in the coming summer, as a vast majority of such fires occur on hot and dry summer days. WWF has been highly active in escalating awareness on this subject and encouraging people to take precautions in advance of the summer season. The government has also been relatively active and focused on the problem. OGM (General Directorate of Forestry) has organized campaigns to educate the masses and train civilians to participate in firefighting if needed. Furthermore, a local aeronautic company TAI has started to manufacture firefighting helicopters under the supervision of Sikorsky. The first helicopter was delivered only a few days ago, and more will be delivered soon.

As Turkey has intensified efforts to combat forest fires amid rising temperatures, the latest data shows the average first fire response time was recorded at 15 minutes, well below previously recorded response times. New technologies are being used to provide early warning. Locally manufactured Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), used in many risky areas, perform essential tasks in protecting green homeland thanks to their thermal cameras. With the thermal cameras on the UAVs, areas with the possibility of fire are detected, and that prepares an intervention plan using data from UAVs and meteorology. With the guidance of fire experts, rapid intervention is carried out in places where forest fires may erupt. Furthermore, public access to forest areas is prohibited until the end of the risky, dry, and hot season in most of the country by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

The most active NGO is WWF Turkey;

Chairperson: Mr. Ugur Bayar


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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Turkey Country Manager Dr Semih Ergur.


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