Italy ravaged by deliberateforests fires

(Rome, Italy,  4 January, 2002
Source: WWF,Mediterranean Programe)

Thousands ofhectares of valuable forests, such as maritime pines, firs, beeches and larcheshave been destroyed by fires, which have ravaged northern Italy over the lastfew days.
The most affected Italian regions, where fires are still blazing despite intensefire fighting activities, are: Liguria, Piemonte, Lombardia, Veneto andFriuli. 
There is strong evidence that fires have been deliberately lit, then aggravatedby the particular weather conditions occurring in the country, characterised bystrong winds combined with low temperatures and prolonged drought.
“Yet another human-induced environmental disaster highlights the necessityof reinforcing territory patrolling, if the crime of forest fires is to beprevented”, said Maurizio Santoloci, Vice-President of WWF Italy, “WWFcalls upon the Italian government to issue a law decree so that an effectivefire management system is implemented by the Regions, at which level prediction,prevention and fire fighting activities should be properlyintegrated.” 
Forest fires represent an extremely serious environmental issue in theMediterranean region: every year more than 600,000 – 800,000 hectares of forestsare destroyed by fires, which in 95% of cases are due to arson, very muchrelated to conflict of interests and land speculation. 
In most EU Mediterranean countries – Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece – theaverage total burnt surface has quadrupled since the 60’s.
Fires occurring in Italy dramatically show how this problem should beeffectively tackled all year long, and not only during the summer season, whenfires are most expected.
Moreover, fire fighting activities are even more complicated in the cold season,given the scarce availability of water resources (which in most cases arefrozen) to extinguish the fires.
“WWF asks the Mediterranean governments to seriously commit to identifythose responsible for forest fires and to make sure that the costs of the damageis recovered, while adequate laws should be reinforced or established (whenmissing), prohibiting forest land conversion to other land uses afterfires”, said Paolo Lombardi, the Representative of WWF MediterraneanProgramme Office, ” Also, governments should put in place real preventivemeasures against forest fires, such as the promotion of sustainable ruraldevelopment, incentives to farmers and forest owners to conserve forests and thedevelopment of forest fire risk assessments to support preventionpolicies.”


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