Cyprus’ ability to tackle wildfires has been significantly upgraded, as managing the summer’s fires proved one of the most successful, said Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis.
He said that 2022 was the island’s best year of forest fire management.
Kadis pinned the results on actions taken by authorities to increase the number of firefighters and upgrade infrastructure.
“This is supported by data, as the state forest area burned was the smallest since 1960, at just 0.4 hectares.
“The forest area burned was the smallest in 20 years, at just 30 hectares, and the average area burned per wildfire, at just half a hectare.
“The area burned in the biggest fire of the year was just 3.6 hectares,” said Kadis.
He argued that the results were the fruit of improving the operational capacity and staffing of the forestry department and strengthening the forest fire response system.
“Over the past year, the government gradually filled almost all the pending vacancies in the forestry department while strengthening and modernising its ground and aerial firefighting fleet.”
For the first time, five planes and seven helicopters contributed to Cyprus’ firefighting efforts this year.
Kadis stressed that protecting the forests and biodiversity is a priority, as it “contributes to the improvement of the quality of human life and the ecological stability of our planet”.
The minister also referred to the controversial plan to develop the Akamas forest area.
“The plan, which respects sustainability criteria, is in its final stages of implementation and will feature over 40 conservation and nature protection projects”.
Some 31,000 tree saplings have been given to 257 beneficiaries to help in the reforestation of areas destroyed by wildfires in recent years.
In July last year, Cyprus suffered its worst wildfire since its independence in 1960.
The wildfire, which broke out in the Limassol village of Arakapa, claimed the lives of four Egyptian land workers, destroyed nearly 100 homes and businesses, damaged power lines and forced the evacuation of 10 villages.
The fire had engulfed more than 55 square km of forest land.