Spanish firefighters are trying to build ‘fake graveyards’ to stop urban sprawl

Spanish firefighters are trying to build ‘fake graveyards’ to stop urban sprawl

20 January 2017

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Spain — Firefighters in Spain are trying to build entirely empty cemeteries in woodland in order to stop the growing threat of urban sprawl.

The Spanish Forest Firefighters National Association (ANBF) has launched a campaign to build bogus graveyards on barren areas where forest fires have ravaged woodland.

It has dug up an obscure piece of legislation that says buildings cannot be constructed within a 500 metre radius of a cemetery.

“In principle, no one will be buried there,” said ANBF spokesman Iñigo Hernandez, speaking to The Independent, who this week decided to publicise the campaign worldwide.

“Creating cemeteries in burnt areas aims to discourage the intentional burning of the forests. Allowing the building on burnt down forest areas leads to fires started intentionally, which result in the destruction of natural ecosystems, where animals, trees and plants live.”

The country’s Congress of Deputies amended the Forestry Act in 2015, allowing developers to build infrastructure, such as homes, schools, business units and leisure centres, on areas destroyed by forest fire.

It allowed building to begin after two years has passed since the fire, instead of the 30-year rule written up in 2003.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says 55 per cent of wildfire in 2015 was started intentionally by humans, and the ANBF believes the amendment will rapidly speed up deforestation.

Article 50 of the Cemetery Law in Spain, however, says that cemeteries must lie at least 500 metres away from any “populated areas”, or “houses or buildings used for human accommodation”.

The ANBF’s [Fo]rest in Peace campaign lobbies city councils to automatically requalify burned ground as cemeteries.

A separate petition, which has more than 412,000 signatures, asks the government to repeal the law.

“It would actually be a lot cheaper and better served if the government invested more in prevention rather than extinction of fires,” added Mr Hernandez, who claims the legal amendment “could kill all Spanish woodland”.

There were 8,801 fires covering 65,246.9ha in 2016, while around eight firefighters are killed by forest fire each year.

Spain lost an area of forestry twice the size of Luxembourg – equivalent to 690,815ha – between 2000 and 2012.

Global Forest Watch said 448,188ha was reforested during the same period.

Mr Hernandez added: “If we lose our forests, we lose nature, we lose life.”

Nasa estimates there will be no rainforest within 100 years.

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