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Turkey and World Bank unite to combat wildfires

Firefighters from Istanbul municipality and volunteers plan how to extinguish a wildfire near Ikizce, a village in Turkey Umit Bektas/Reuters
Firefighters from Istanbul municipality and volunteers plan how to extinguish a wildfire near Ikizce, a village in Turkey
  • $400m protection project launches
  • Almost 230,000 hectares destroyed
  • ‘Holistic’ approach to prevention

Turkey has launched a $400 million project with the World Bank to protect the country from wildfires.

The Turkey Climate Resilient Forests Project will strengthen the country’s ability to protect people and property from the fires. 

Almost 230,000 hectares of Turkey’s forests were damaged or destroyed completely between 2012 and 2021, with more than 61 percent of the damage taking place in 2021.

The fires three years ago in the southern and western areas of Turkey completely burned 170,000 hectares of land – eight times the size of average annual fires – killing eight people and injuring more than 800. 

Wildfires in the country have had an impact on sectors from agriculture, mining and timber to tourism. 

Damage caused to the forest ecosystem was estimated at the time to take more than six decades to recover.

But as temperatures continue to increase – last summer was the hottest globally on record – so too do wildfires.

Last year, Turkey reported nearly 32,700 hectares lost to forest fires, more than double the figure recorded the previous year, according to Statista.

The newly launched project will cover the country’s 14 provinces at most risk from wildfires, which are home to around 20 million people.

The aim of the project is to improve fire management approaches and prevention and strengthen wildfire response. Landscapes and livelihoods affected by wildfires will also be restored and the plan is to help reduce the country’s vulnerability to climate change.

Forests and landscapes restored and protected under the project will help conserve and improve biodiversity and ecosystem services and reduce CO2 emissions.

‘Holistic’ approach

“Our nation stands at the forefront, pioneering advanced technologies and holistic approaches to both prevent and suppress wildfires,” said Bekir Karacabey, director general of the General Directorate of Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Turkey.

Almost 90 percent of the world’s pine honey is produced on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey. About 10,000 beekeepers produce 40,000 tons of pine honey annually in these regions.

Turkey is still building back from the devastating earthquake that hit the country in February last year, killing an estimated 48,000 people and rendering hundreds of thousands homeless.

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