This year, a record number of fires were registered in Ukraine, which mainly occurred in the Eastern and Southern regions. What are the reasons for the intensification of fires in 2020? What impact do they have on the ecosystem and the people of Ukraine? What operational and precautionary measures are needed to combat forest fires?
The Ukrainian Crisis Media Center discussed this issue with a group of experts. In particular, according to Serhiy Zibtsev, Head of the Regional Eastern European Fire Monitoring Center of the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences, 5,000 to 7,000 hectares of forest fires occur annually in Ukraine. This year, statistics have risen to at least 120,000 hectares.
“Every year from 500,000 to one million hectares of agricultural land burns in Ukraine. Ukraine’s main problem is more agricultural fires. Fires not in forests, but in floodplains, pastures,” said the expert.
What Are the Reasons for the Intensification of Fires in 2020?
Serhiy Zibtsev emphasises that the first cause of the fire is people. The number of fires that occur naturally is constant. The number of fires caused by anthropogenic factors has increased significantly. And if we do not change our approach, we will have dozens of fire victims in five years, as in Greece and Portugal. First of all, it is necessary to fundamentally change the approaches to the protection of forests, fields, and settlements from fires.
And Petro Tiestov, Advisor to the Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, also believes that without a comprehensive change in the system of fighting fires, we will not be able to achieve effective results.
In turn, Oleksandr Shust, Director of the Department of Subsoil Use and Environmental Rehabilitation of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, said, “The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine does not stand aside from this issue. Nowadays, we have initiated the creation of a working group to develop a strategy for landscape fire management. Now, the working group will develop draft strategies.”
Oleksandr Shust emphasised the main goals of the working group’s strategy, in particular:
- Introduction of an effective forest fire management system.
- Raising awareness and culture of citizens about fires.
What is the Environmental Effect of Fires?
The ecological consequences of forest fires are the mass destruction of animals and plants. In addition, the fires cause air pollution by carbon dioxide and pyrolysis products of forest combustible materials, oxygen combustion, etc. All this kills the ecosystem of Ukraine.
The human factor in fires is very important. It is necessary to improve not only the procedure for collecting fines but also to improve, first of all, fire prevention and modernise the extinguishing process. In order for fire statistics in Ukraine to fall, it is necessary to take a comprehensive approach to this problem. For example, a comprehensive strategy, according to Serhiy Zibtsev, is not a powerful means of firefighting, but the qualifications of specialists, coordination, readiness, skills, abilities, and protection.
And Yevhenia Zasyadko, Head of the Climate and Transport Department of the NGO EcoDia, stressed, “Over the last 30 years, the average temperature in Ukraine has risen by 1.2 degrees. This poses a risk for fires, droughts and even desertification.”
The climate policy expert emphasises that it is now important to have an ambitious goal of reducing gas emissions. Our country is located in a region of active increase in average temperature, which has a negative impact on the ecosystem. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to solving the problem of fires in Ukraine should also include improving the climate, which means reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Zasyadko said, “The public has prepared a roadmap for climate actions. We have developed climate targets for five sectors, where we have set targets that will lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Ukraine. More than 30 NGOs supported these goals, and more than 30 experts participated in the creation of this document.”
Trees Will Save the World
Scientists from Switzerland have concluded that the most effective way to combat global warming is to plant many trees. According to an article in the journal Science, even with existing cities and agricultural land on the planet, there will be enough space to plant 9 million square kilometers of trees. This is comparable to the territory of the United States.
Scientists estimate that in the coming decades, these new trees could absorb nearly 750 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly equal to air pollution over the past 25 years.
“This solution to climate change is much cheaper, thousands of times cheaper,” said study co-author Thomas Krauter, an ecologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
Meanwhile, a wooden bank card has been issued in the UK. The profits that the Tree Card group of startups will receive will be used to plant trees.
This is a full-fledged debit card with support for contactless transactions and mobile payments, which is equipped with a chip for secure payments. Also, a special mobile application has been created for its users, in which you can track expenses, share accounts with friends, and see how many trees have been planted with funds from each payment transaction.
The peculiarity of this bank card is that 80% of the profits from payments will be used for reforestation, and the remaining 20% for the production of the cards themselves.
The total area of the forest fund of Ukraine is 10.4 million hectares, 9.6 million of which are covered with forest vegetation. The problem of forest protection from fires is one of the most difficult to be solved by the staff of the State Agency of Forest Resources of Ukraine. The situation is especially tense in the eastern and southern regions, whereas as a result of large-scale afforestation on hundreds of thousands of hectares, artificial coniferous plantations have been created. The constant increase in the recreational load on forests contributes to a significant increase in fire danger.
The fire danger in forests is exacerbated by human factors and weather conditions in spring and late summer. More than 98% of fires occur for this reason.
The main cause of forest fires is the violation of fire safety requirements in forests during the period of high emergency fire danger and the burning of vegetation on agricultural lands.
Today, in Ukraine, forest protection from fires is provided by 307 state forestry and forest-hunting enterprises, which include more than 1,700 forestry and 273 forest fire stations. The number of people involved in departmental fire protection is more than 13,000 people.