Turkey spent only fraction of forest protection budget before wildfires erupted

06.08.2021

Turkish authorities battling the country's worst ever wildfires have been accused of failing to prepare for the threat after official data showed they spent only a fraction of the modest funds budgeted to prevent forest fires this year.

Eight people have been killed in the fires which have swept through Turkey's south-western coastal regions, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people including tourists and briefly threatening to engulf a power plant.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has faced criticism that its response has been slow and inadequate – with opponents zeroing in on a lack of fire-fighting planes which forced Ankara to scramble to procure them from abroad.

In the last two weeks, fires in Turkey have burned more than three times the area affected in an average year, a European fire agency said. Neighbouring countries have also battled blazes fanned by heat waves and strong winds.

Turkey's state forestry agency said that in the first half of 2021, it spent less than 2 per cent of the 200 million lira ($24 million) it had set aside this year for construction, projects and equipment used to fight forest fires.

In contrast, Portugal budgeted €224 million ($265 million) to prevent and combat forest fires this year, and Spain's central government budgeted €65 million.  (Reuters)

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