Armenia — Assessing the risk of wildfires and developing and implementing national fire management policies was the focus of an OSCE-supported roundtable meeting in Yerevan on Wednesday.
The event, organized by the OSCE Office in Yerevan, the United Nations Development Programme and the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations, brings together some 100 representatives from all state institutions involved in fire management, local self-government bodies, civil society and the international community.
Strengthening the national capacity to fight fires will help make our region safer, said William Hanlon, the Economic and Environmental Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan.
Participants discussed issues affecting forest and wildland fires in Armenia, achievements in forest and fire protection, development of emergency response capabilities and legislation, and regional and international co-operation.
Sergey Azaryan, the Director of the Armenian Rescue Service of Armenias Emergency Situations Ministry added: Vast forest fires can destroy thousands hectares of forests, orchards and grasslands and the failure to organize a comprehensive and consistent fight may result in ecological disaster. That is why the topic of the discussion is urgent and of strategic importance to Armenia.
The discussion follows a two-day training course and practical exercise held in Syunik, a southern province of Armenia, where around 50 local fire brigade representatives learned about international best practices and modern techniques for forest fire management. The training course was conducted by Johann Georg Goldammer, the Director of the Global Fire Monitoring Centre, and two representatives of the Regional Forest Fire Network from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey.
Climate change in the region will increase the threat of forest fires in the South Caucasus: extended droughts will heighten the risk of high-intensity fires resulting in environmental and economic damage, and lead to secondary disasters, such as landslides, erosion and loss of soil fertility, said Goldammer, who has analyzed forest fires in Armenia and neighbouring countries in recent years.
He added that lack of adequate supervision of fires for agricultural purposes was the main cause of forest fires and this could be reduced if the authorities worked with farmers to avoid unnecessary burning.
This event is part of a regional project for the South Caucasus which is supported by the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) initiative, which is a partnership of six organizations the OSCE, UNDP, UNEP, UNECE, REC and NATO as an associate partner. A similar training course was organized under this project in Georgia last year.