“ There is a need for stronger cooperationbetween countries”

23 August 2005

press release by the UN InternationalStrategy for Disaster Reduction

More than 140,000 hectares offorest and farmland have been destroyed in Portugal since the beginning of thesummer affecting many households. The fires compelled the Portuguese Governmentto call on the European Union for help.

“ What is happening in Portugal is a clear demonstration that there is astrong need for closer cooperation between countries on fire management” saysJohann Goldammer, Director of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) inGermany. “ The European Commission has recognised this lack of collaborationbetween the EU States and is working on it, but more needs to be done to enhanceregional cooperation and develop common standards on technologies and fireprevention procedures and languages. ”

The GFMC was established in 1998 as a contribution of Germany to the UNInternational Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR). It is a member of theInter-Agency Task Force for Disaster Reduction and serves as coordinator of theWorking Group on Wildland Fire (2001-2003). It also coordinates the ISDRWildland Fire Advisory Group and the ISDR Global Wildland Fire Network.

Other big partners in the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction are theUnited Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Food AgricultureOrganisation (FAO) that coordinate the challenge of reducing forest fires aroundthe world and in particular in Asia where they have become a threat todevelopment.

The current fire situation in Portugal has been enhanced by the change inland-use. The rural exodus has left a large area of land non-cultivated, whichhas increased the amount of combustible materials, which can trigger big fireswhen droughts occur.

“ There are many measures that can be taken which can contribute to reduce thenumber of wildland fires, says Johann Goldammer. The use of the forest biomassfor energy products is one. It offers an increasingly valuable opportunityespecially now when oil prices are soaring. Governments should pay moreattention to these resources because it is a way to reduce the number of firesin many countries while increasing the economic benefits to communities.” 

The ISDR Secretariat strongly supports this idea. 

“ Every country should follow basic rules of fire prevention and increase itsexpertise on fire management with its neighbours. The treatment of combustiblematerial, proper training for safe use of fire for agricultural purposes and abetter behaviour by the public to avoid triggering fires are some of the mainrules, says Salvano Briceño, Director of the Secretariat of the InternationalStrategy for Disaster Reduction. National platforms for disaster risk reductionhave a role to play to make forest management one of their top priorities and tobetter prepare their populations to reduce risk and vulnerability to naturalhazards.”


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