As temperatures in southern Turkey rise and with the onset of the Turkish summer season, which will bring tourists to the region, Koç Holding and the Green Information Platform have launched a joint project to raise awareness about forest fires.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, people cause 94 percent of forest fires, and therefore, environmentalists believe, humans can prevent them. Many tourists that visit forests in the south during the summer carry out recreational activities and are less than careful with their litter and cigarettes, which can instantly cause a fire. The awareness-raising project aims to inform people about the causes of such fires and to establish strategies that environmental organizations, municipalities and private firms can adopt in order to help prevent fires.
Ali Koç, chairman of Koç Holding, said the summer period is critical and that the dry weather combined with the jump in tourism makes forests more vulnerable to fire.
"Forest fires cause great damage to the environment, ecosystems and the economy, and it takes years to replenish burnt-out areas, therefore we need to take the appropriate precautions to prevent them now," Koç said at a press conference on Burgaz Island on Tuesday. Island Mayor Mustafa Farsakoğlu drew examples from the tragic forest fire that took place on Burgaz Island in 2003.
Highlighting that 40 acres of the island’s 80 acre forests were wiped out by the fire, Farsakoğlu said: "Each forest is extremely unique. They each hold hundreds of different species of wildlife and ecosystems that are almost impossible to replace."
About 20,000 trees were wiped out, and after six years, the newly planted trees have barely reached a quarter of the size of the original trees."The summer season has started we need to act, and we need to quickly alert people to the risks before we witness any more tragic fires on the islands and southern regions," Farsakoğlu said.
WWF Turkey Chairman Akin Öngör said that in addition to raising awareness at such platforms, strategies need to be discussed to help prevent these fires.
After drawing attention to the fact that 81 percent of forest fires occur during the summer season, Öngör said that when such fires happen people are so preoccupied with putting them out and replenishing the area that they neglect putting together statistics about how the fire started and what was burnt.
"Such statistics would help environmental organizations put together schemes that would help prevent fires that start from the same causes in the future," Öngör said, adding that recycling was a key prevention scheme for fires because it ensures that dangerous materials that can spark fires are disposed of correctly and can be reused.
In addition to the project to raise awareness about forest fires, Koç Holding is investing $1 billion in the Turkish Petroleum Cooperation, or Tüpraş, in the next four years toward recycling and regenerating projects.