Turkey forest fire calls for climate emergency
DURING the last few weeks, the devastating news of Turkish fires has hit headlines worldwide. A series of videos and pictures of blazing fires and turmoil have gone viral, depicting the nation’s despair.
Unbridled luminosity irradiates the blazing land while darkness looms above due to smoke with a continuous pungent smell. What is left are charred remains, charcoal ashes and lifeless flora and fauna.
One particular photograph that evoked sentiments across social media displayed a little boy watching fire-fighter planes amidst the orange horizon to battle the ferocious flames over the Mediterranean coast. Ill-armed fire-fighters, volunteers and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) are seen risking their lives by utilizing their buckets.
Meanwhile, citizens and tourists are evacuating the area, wildlife runs for shelter futilely, land gets rendered of vegetation and breadwinners become penniless.
Nevertheless, the prevailing situation has been compounded due to the authorities inability to administer it. Meanwhile, there is a constant blame game among opposition parties.
The ruling party has been blamed for ignoring visible early warning signs of droughts and dying migratory birds.
Ankara’s Forestry Department’s National Forest Program is outdated and doesn’t incorporate other interlinked sectors – agriculture, urbanization, tourism etc.
The ruling party even censured social movement and social media campaign requesting international help.
Torrential winds, severe droughts, humidity and soaring temperatures are cumulatively responsible to kindle blazing fires across Southwest Turkey all the way to Greece.
Previously Climatologists warned of extreme weather patterns such as southern European heat waves due to climatic changes.
According to European Forest Fire Information Service, thrice as many fires occurred in 2021, burning 140,000 hectares of land.
In the light of a series of recent events that triggered catastrophe – western European and Chinese floods, North American wildfires, Atlantic Hurricanes and Indian Ocean cyclones.
The above case-scenario gives weightage to the arguments advocated by ecocentrics since decades that Climate Change is an unprecedented threat of our times.
In such a scenario, it becomes incumbent for all countries to learn from Turkey’s shortcomings and take precautionary measures to prevent such a mishap.
First and foremost, all states must remain vigilant to any warning signs and be prepared-in-advance to fight any calamity head-on.
For this purpose, stakeholders must ensure that they are well-equipped with enough resources like upgraded telemetry and early warning systems, air and land conveyances, trained rescue-and-relief workers, medical supplies etc.
Disaster Management Committees composed of professionals must be set up to forge efficient strategy and policy.
Citizens must undergo emergency evacuation exercises and workshops to handle and subdue disasters. In fire-prone areas, afforestation and plantation drives must be prioritized.
According to Wild-land Fire Management Information (WFMI), anthropogenic activities are major causes of forest fires; hence, forest guards must have service weapons and vehicles to stop irresponsible individuals including poachers and mafia who deliberately torch trees. Thermograms and satellites can alert the forest department of arson and terrorism.
To combat Turkish forest fires, we must collectively come to grips with climate emergency. Types of natural calamities discussed earlier are interlinked and require integrated and holistic responses by foresters, biologists, climatologists etc., from around the world to mitigate extreme and complex interacting-weather patterns and their resulting catastrophes.
Human beings cannot completely avert climate change; however, a collective response can save us from a complete disaster.
—The writer is a degree-holder in Politics and International Relations from University of London and has remained associated with the National Assembly, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, South Asian Strategic Stability Institute.