Re­build­ing from the ashes of for­est fires

E DII TO RII A L

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

As tragic as the for­est fires of the past few days have been, with a long-term im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and the ru­ral econ­omy, Cyprus has an op­por­tu­nity to heed to ear­lier warn­ings and start work­ing to build a sus­tain­able econ­omy out of the ashes. It is clear that the NIMBY syn­drome (not in my back yard) has proven fu­tile, as even the small­est cli­mate change event any­where in the world clearly has an im­pact on tiny Cyprus.

Lead­ing econ­o­mists, such as Jeffrey Sachs, have called for na­tions to em­brace poli­cies for sus­tain­able economies, as mea­sures to pre-empt dis­as­ters, although un­avoid­able, could help deal with crises in a far bet­ter way and with less cost of hu­man lives. Sus­tain­able strate­gies could also have long-term ben­e­fits, ar­gue the econ­o­mists, with a mas­sive re­think of the way we have planned our eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the past decades.

Re­searchers at the Cyprus In­sti­tute have shown that a 1-2C rise in tem­per­a­ture will have a se­ri­ous im­pact on the tourism in­dus­try and all re­lated ser­vices. By sim­ply say­ing that we will ex­tend the sum­mer sea­son is com­pla­cent, let alone naïve. If world­wide emis­sions force the weather to be­come warmer, then from mid-July to the end of Au­gust (by far, the best pe­riod in tourist ar­rivals) will soon be­come un­bear­able, hence no tourists and no rev­enue.

Prob­a­bly, the most ill-cal­cu­lated of all de­ci­sion has been the clo­sure of the Forestry Col­lege, at a time when Cyprus has no state ed­u­ca­tional pro­gramme for a sus­tain­able ru­ral econ­omy. This goes to show how lit­tle this and past gov­ern­ments care about keep­ing the is­land green and en­cour­ag­ing re­search in the coun­try­side, where other coun­tries spend mil­lions to boost this area.

The fact that Cyprus is now bet­ter or­gan­ised to com­bat fires is com­mend­able, but goes lit­tle way in be­com­ing pro-ac­tive and in­vest­ing in meth­ods and cul­tures that would pre­vent, or at least lessen, mis­takes that have led to the lat­est dis­as­ters.

It has al­ready been nine years since wild­fires dec­i­mated a big­ger part of the Sait­tas for­est, which although smaller in area than the Soleas val­ley fires, has taken a long time and ef­forts to con­duct re­for­esta­tion. But plat­ing treel­ings and hav­ing co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries is not the so­lu­tion.

With the Green party now boast­ing a mem­ber of par­lia­ment who has been me­thod­i­cal in his re­search and work, per­haps it is time that a fea­si­bil­ity plan gets ur­gently un­der­way to re­open the Forestry Col­lege, where re­search about all as­pects of the en­vi­ron­ment, dam­age caused to it and so­lu­tions to re­vive it would be­come a pri­or­ity.

With the ‘sus­tain­able’ phe­nom­e­non now ex­panded to so many spheres (tourism, etc.), a new Forestry and En­vi­ron­ment Col­lege would have had a clear task ahead, if only an of­fi­cial had the courage to stand up and cam­paign for its re­open­ing.

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