Turkey was the second most affected country after Italy from forest fires last year in terms of burnt area among 34 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, according to a recent report by the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC).
Released on Oct. 31, the JRC’s technical report, “Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa 2021,” contains an annual summary of the 2021 fire season with official figures provided by 34 contributing countries for the number of fires, burnt areas and fire prevention efforts, and an analysis of fire danger and areas mapped in the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).
According to the report, the number of forest fires in Turkey was 2,793 in 2021 and the total area burnt was 139,503 hectares, while 5,989 fires affected 151,964 hectares in Italy in the same period.
Approximately 57 percent (12.5 million hectares) of Turkey’s forest area is located in fire-sensitive areas, the report said, adding that forest fires mostly occurred during the March-December period in 2021, with July being the highest month with 503 fires affecting 104,665 hectares.
The cause of over 47 percent of the fires in Turkey were “unknown human activities” last year, followed by negligence (29.4), lightning (12.5), accidents (6.4) and deliberate actions (3.9), the report further showed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced widespread criticism over their poor response and inadequate preparedness, especially for the large-scale wildfires that started on the country’s southern and western coasts on July 28, 2021, and claimed the lives of nine people, also destroying large swathes of forestland, until they were fully contained on Aug. 13.
Turks, who already feel the consequences of political and economic crises that have shaken the country for the last several years, slammed Erdoğan for his government’s environmentally irresponsible policies, especially for depleting firefighting resources over the years, and even called for him to step down.