'Turkish government's failure to follow expert advice worsened spread of forest fires '

If the Turkish government had listened to the suggestions of TÜBİTAK scientists and planted trees in a manner as to provide shelter from the wind (called "windbreak" planting), the ongoing massive forest fires would not have spread so extensively, Turkey Foresters Association Western Mediterranean Chair Prof. Tuncay Neyişci said.

Müzeyyen Yüce / DUVAR

Winds blowing from the northeast and insufficient preventative work have deemed the forest fires blazing through the southern coast of Turkey harder to extinguish, Turkey Foresters Association Western Mediterranean Chair Prof. Tuncay Neyişci said. 

The largest fire to engulf the Mediterranean province of Antalya since 2008, it's no surprise that the flames spread so wide so fast, Neyişci noted. 

Suggestions for preventative action were included in a previous report by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the professor noted, adding that windbreak planting was part of the offered plan.

"We had suggested the establishment of a windbreak with cypress trees as a result of a TÜBİTAK project in the 1980s. In Manavgat and Serik, a windbreak needs to have been created against fires with cypress trees. This would have cut the northeast winds," Neyişci said.

"The Manavgat fire could not have grown so much if this suggestion had been implemented."

A windbreak (shelterbelt) is a planting usually made up of one or more rows of trees planted in such a manner as to provide shelter from the wind.

Turkey's Forestry Directorate General hasn't implemented any measures to stop the northeast winds, pointing to the winds as an excuse for not being able to stop the fires, Neyişci added. 

"The fire will only stop when the wind changes direction or when there is no more forest left to burn down," Neyişci said. "It's possible to estimate about a thousand hectares of land having burned down so far."

The Forestry General Directorate doesn't conduct enough preventative efforts such as decreasing the amount of dry inflammable matter on the forest ground, the expert added. 

Hotels and holiday resorts in Turkey also have shortcomings with regards to preventative efforts, Neyişci said, adding that businesses should re-arrange both their equipment usage and landscaping.