The İstanbul Governor’s Office has announced that access to forested areas in the city has been prohibited from June 24 to Oct. 15 in an effort to prevent forest fires, local media reported on Friday.
The office stated that with the rise in temperatures during the summer and the increased human and vehicular activity in forested areas, there is a possibility of forest fires occurring as a result of arson or carelessness.
According to the announcement, the decision will be implemented in all forested areas within the city limits of İstanbul, except for designated picnic and recreational areas.
Large-scale wildfires that started on Turkey’s southern and western coasts on July 28, 2021, claimed the lives of nine people, also destroying large swaths of forestland, until they were fully contained on Aug. 13.
A November report by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) revealed that Turkey was the second most affected country from forest fires in 2021 in terms of burnt area among 34 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the report, there were 2,793 forest fires in Turkey in 2021, with a total burned area of 139,503 hectares. The majority of these fires occurred between March and December, with July being the peak month, witnessing 503 fires that affected 104,665 hectares of land.
The cause of over 47 percent of the fires in Turkey in 2021 was “unknown human activities,” the JRC said.
Official figures showed that a total of 1,801 forest fires occurred in Turkey between Jan. 1 and Oct. 5, 2022, resulting in damage to a total of 12,210 hectares of land. The highest number of forest fires, 189, took place in Muğla, causing damage to 5,593 hectares of land, followed by Antalya with 165 and İzmir with 139 fires.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced widespread criticism over their poor response and inadequate preparedness for the wildfires.