Friday, 24 June
Recriminations about the devastating fire which has raged in the Mersinlik area of Kantara for four days and is spreading down towards Tatlisu have begun.
The former President of the Biologists’ Association Hasan Sarpten has pointed the finger at the government, blaming it for lack of appropriate forest maintenance and firefighting aircraft.
Speaking on a ‘Morning Post’ programme he said the following:
“[There is] Insufficient infrastructure, lack of personnel. Firebreaks need to be cleared at regular intervals. Land lying underneath high-voltage cables needs to be cleared, none of which is done”.
Sarpten said that despite the number of fire outbreaks in the country, no precautions have been taken; lessons have not been learned.
He said that following the outbreak of the fire four days ago, contact was made between the Bi-Communal Environment Committee and Southern Cyprus. Their offers of help were rejected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources on the grounds that it was ‘not necessary’, Sarpten said.
He added that the TRNC could have tens of firefighting planes for the amount to be spent on building the new Presidential complex. The state should examine its priorities, Sarpten said.
Reforestation Should Be Delayed
Sarpten said that one million saplings had been planted by the Forestry Department every year after the 1995 fire*
[*At the end of June 1995, the Kyrenia region suffered the worst fire in living memory when more than 160 square kilometres of forest and olive groves between Lapta in the west and the Besparmak peak to the east were burnt to ashes. Ed.]
Sarpten said that the forest should not be replanted immediately after the fire but should be left to reforest itself.
Pine Beetle Damage
Studies on the pine beetle, which had been carried out for the last five years, were abandoned this year, Sarpten said. “Even if the fire had not occurred in the Mersinlik region, our trees would have dried up in March due to infestation of the pine beetle’‘, he said.
Poor Forest Management
Sarpten criticised those who say ‘There is no loss of life in the forest fire’ and said, “Many lives have perished. People who say ‘there is no loss of life’ because people did not die say so because people have votes. It is said that there is no such loss of life because birds and snakes do not have a vote“.
Referring to President Tatar’s statement that ‘There was no loss of life in the forest fire’, Sarpten said , “We expect an apology from Tatar for the trees, birds and snakes” .
Recalling that fires can start only too readily in the dry season, whether deliberately or by accident, the spread of fire can be prevented if the state takes the necessary precautions.