Wildfires Devastate Agricultural Land in Turkey

Large areas in the south and southwest of the country have been reduced to ashes after dozens of wildfires erupted in the country.
Near Bogsak, Mersin province, Turkey
Aug. 20, 2021
Costas Vasilopoulos

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In a repeat­ing pat­tern of pro­longed drought and scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures that have appeared in sev­eral coun­tries in the Mediterranean basin, rag­ing wild­fires have been sweep­ing through the south and south­west coastal regions of Turkey.

Burning for more than a fort­night, the fires have claimed human lives and dec­i­mated forests, agri­cul­tural land and live­stock.

It took only a few min­utes for numer­ous houses to ignite. It was point­less try­ing to inter­vene. Houses, olive groves, ani­mals and trac­tors turned to ash in no time.- Muhtar Cansiz, vil­lage chief, Kalemler

More than 290 fires broke out in the coun­try in the last few weeks. The provinces of Antalya, Muğla, Adana and Mersin were heav­ily affected, and thou­sands of res­i­dents and tourists were evac­u­ated from vil­lages and sea­side resorts like Marmaris and Bodrum.

See Also: Just when Olive Oil Tourism Was Trending in Turkey, the Pandemic Hit

A total of nine peo­ple lost their lives and hun­dreds were hos­pi­tal­ized with res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems.

Approximately 160,000 hectares of forests, farm­lands and crops have been reduced to ashes so far. Thousands of cat­tle, sheep, poul­try and bee­hives also per­ished in the flames.

The dam­age caused had a detri­men­tal effect on local farm­ers in the fire-stricken areas of the coun­try.

In Kalemler, a small vil­lage in the province of Antalya, almost half of the houses were destroyed by the blazes. A cou­ple had no time to flee the area and were found dead in their burned house. The fire also took a heavy toll on live­stock and trees.

One hun­dred and fifty houses once stood here. After the flames reached our vil­lage, 67 of them burned down,” Muhtar Cansiz, the head of the vil­lage, said. It took only a few min­utes for numer­ous houses to ignite. It was point­less try­ing to inter­vene. Houses, olive groves, ani­mals and trac­tors turned to ash in no time.”

When it comes to olive oil, the areas bat­tered by the fires are among the most pro­duc­tive in the coun­try. Many olive grow­ers wit­nessed their trees and the hard work of a life­time being wiped out by the flames.

In Mazi Mahallesi, a set­tle­ment of the dis­trict of Muğla, local farmer Necibe Köle was pow­er­less against the blazes that devoured the 600 olive trees she owned.

We were mak­ing a liv­ing by farm­ing olives,” Köle said. I am alive, noth­ing hap­pened to my chil­dren, but my fruits and veg­eta­bles were burned. Everything was burned.”

Another farmer, Necibittin Gül, said that almost noth­ing of his prop­erty escaped the rag­ing fires, includ­ing the cen­te­nary olive trees that were passed down to him through the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

We had a great fire dis­as­ter,” Gül said. Our very big, cen­turies-old olive trees were also burned. We used to make olive oil and eat it our­selves, some­times we sold it.”

We had olives inher­ited from our father,” he added. Most of them have dis­ap­peared. I can’t live to see my olives grow.”

Unfortunately, our coun­try is expe­ri­enc­ing very bad cli­mate changes that you often wit­ness,” Mustafa Tan, the chair­man of the board of Turkey’s National Olive and Olive Oil Council (UZZK), told Olive oil Times.

See Also: Millenary Olive Tree Destroyed in Sardinian Wildfires

Forest fires in recent days are a painful indi­ca­tor of this. In these fires, not only forests burned. Our peo­ple, our wild and domes­tic ani­mals and, of course, our olive trees,” he added. We, as the National Olive and Olive Oil Council, con­tinue our research in fire areas with our tech­ni­cal teams and we have not com­pleted them yet.”

By August 12, the last major fire burn­ing in the Köyceğiz dis­trict of Muğla had been con­tained, the Turkish Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli said in a tweet.

We man­aged to bring Köyceğiz fire under con­trol with the great efforts of the heroes of forests,” Pakdemirli wrote.

Mahmut Serdar Kocadon, the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Bodrum, announced that new trees will be pro­vided to the olive grow­ers of the area to com­pen­sate for the dam­ages in their olive groves.

We want to buy new olive saplings and restore the burned olive groves,” Kocadon said. For this, we will sup­port our olive grow­ers with saplings. We take note of the needs of our mem­bers and go around to heal their wounds.”

The coun­try is also on course for a wider refor­esta­tion effort, plan­ning to plant mil­lions of trees until the end of the year, as the Turkish pres­i­dent, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said.

We will plant a total of 252 mil­lion saplings, tree saplings for each cit­i­zen, until the end of this year as part of the Breath for Future Campaign,” Erdoğan told reporters in Istanbul. The gov­ern­ment will not allow the deser­ti­fi­ca­tion of the coun­try and will take mea­sures against drought.”

Erdoğan also spec­i­fied that the areas burned are safe from other uses and refor­esta­tion will be in line with the nat­ural flora of the hit areas.​





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