Izmir Metropolitan Municipality has prepared a large-scale action plan to make the green cover of the city "fire resistant". Forest restoration will be carried out in all suitable areas in the city, especially in the afforestation areas of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality. İzmir will be equipped with tree and bush species that are suitable for the Mediterranean climate, do not require irrigation, and "sprout automatically" after a possible disaster. President Tunç Soyer said, "We are declaring a forest mobilization," and stated that the project, whose foundation was laid in 2019, not only grows green areas, but also protects the forest ecosystem of İzmir.
After the forest fires that scorched Turkey's lungs, the importance of creating fire-resistant trees and vegetation became evident once again. In line with this vision set in 2019, Izmir Metropolitan Municipality has determined and implemented a series of additional actions to be implemented in the next six months. The Metropolitan Municipality, which carries out forest restoration works around the city, creates afforestation areas with more than one variety.
Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Tunç Soyer said, “A very important part of our strategy to create a resilient Izmir is our forest restoration work. We will also make the green cover of our city 'fire resistant' so that it does not easily surrender to the flames," he said.
Together with our people, we will succeed
Pointing out that the negative effects of the climate crisis are starting to be seen much more frequently, President Tunç Soyer said, “Unfortunately, we will experience floods, fires and other extraordinary natural events much more intensely in the next period. Therefore, creating a resilient city in every sense has to be our primary goal.” Emphasizing that the support of the people of Izmir on this path is very important, President Soyer continued as follows:
“There are two miracle secrets of being a resilient city. The first is togetherness and solidarity. The second is the evaluation of the right to life as the most important priority. I am talking about the right to life, not only of man, but also of all plants and animals in nature. Because at the core of creating a resilient city in all aspects is respect and harmony with nature. I know that every Izmirian feels this consciousness. This is a task that needs to be taken so seriously that it is not something that the Metropolitan or any other person or institution can achieve alone. We definitely need the wholehearted support of our people. A total mobilization is required. Therefore, we are implementing the exemplary Izmir solidarity that we have demonstrated in the last two years in the pandemic, fire, tornado and earthquake disasters, in order to make the green cover of our city resistant to forest fires. On this path, I expect my esteemed compatriots to support our mobilization in the strongest possible way.”
There are many ways to carry out forest restoration. İzmir is a city in the Mediterranean belt and it is a very sensitive geography in terms of fire risk. The fire resistance of different tree species varies. For example, Turkish Red Pine is a natural tree of Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean belts. However, this tree burns very easily, by its nature it triggers the spread of fire with its cones, and the burned pines do not grow back on their own. In order for a new pine to form naturally, it must regrow from its seed. Other tree and maquis species such as oak are more adaptable to fire. Since they are not kindred, their stems burn later, and most importantly, even if they do, they recover much faster, and they grow back on their own, by means of their roots. The biodiversity of such trees is also greater.
In İzmir's forest restoration program, instead of a uniform pine plantation, a wide variety of planting policies are implemented, including trees that are more resistant to fire, such as oak, menengiç and delice. The medium-term goal of the Metropolitan is to create fire-resistant forest areas in the city periphery and to turn these areas into “living parks” as nature exploration areas for the people of İzmir.
The works to be implemented within the scope of the action plan prepared by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality will be as follows:
Resistant seedlings were grown with the Natural Green Project
Since forestry activities in Turkey have focused on the goal of “obtaining timber” for many years, most of the forest areas in the Aegean and Mediterranean are made up of coniferous trees such as Turkish pine. For this reason, saplings of tree and plant species such as acorn oak and hairy oak are unfortunately not grown much. A comprehensive program regarding the production of these different species has been carried out in İzmir since 2019, and this program has started to bear fruit this year.
Izmir Metropolitan Municipality prepared an inventory of these trees with experts about two years ago. It has been determined which trees will be spread. In order to produce the saplings of these trees, cooperation was made with the cooperatives in the Küçük Menderes Basin. Saplings have begun to be produced. In the coming autumn, these seedlings will start to be brought together with the soil both in the afforestation areas belonging to the Metropolitan Municipality and in the parks and gardens.
This policy will yield three major benefits. Since it does not need irrigation, it will increase İzmir's resilience against drought. It will reduce the risk of forest fire as they are fire resistant. Living parks will be created for the urban population in the regions where they are planted, while the rural population will generate economic income from non-wood forest products such as honey and forest fruits in these areas.
One Sapling, One Home Campaign
Izmir Solidarity will be exhibited once again for its efforts to make the green cover of the city fire resistant. In line with this, the website “One Sapling, One Home” was established. With the sapling planting campaign that will start soon, the people of Izmir will be able to support Izmir's rapid attainment of fire-resistant green cover by purchasing saplings through this site. On this site, resistant seedlings are presented individually for purchase. Those who want to join the mobilization will know what kind of tree saplings they bought. As of autumn, the first saplings will be planted and “green corridors” and living parks will be created between the city center and forest areas. Within the scope of the Welcome Baby Campaign launched in January 2020, a sapling will be planted in these areas for each newborn baby.
Forest Villages and Rural Area Fires Branch Office
According to the decision passed by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Council, the Forest Villages and Rural Area Fires Branch Directorate will be established for the first time in Turkey under the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Fire Brigade Department. This branch will focus on forest villages and rural areas at risk of fire, as forest firefighting services require a separate specialization. Therefore, there will be a special fire department specialized in extinguishing forest fires.
Forest Volunteers Team will be established
A 200-person Forest Volunteers Team will be formed in the first place in order to ensure that a more educated, conscious and planned response to a possible forest fire in İzmir can be made. Volunteers will be people trained or working in the designated areas. Application requirements will be announced shortly. Volunteers will be given theoretical and practical training. The team will be ready to respond to possible forest fires. Volunteers will also support the Metropolitan's efforts to develop and protect forests.
With these trainings, İzmir Metropolitan Municipality aimed to create a conscious society that would protect forests not only in fire but in every moment and area of life. Participants in the training will be informed not only about firefighting, but also about forest ecology.
Forest Science Board
With the decision of 11 metropolitan mayors, a "Forest Science Board" will be established in a short time. This delegation, which will consist of academicians specialized in forest ecology; will provide consultancy to local governments in their efforts to protect and sustain forests.
Fire response kit for forest neighborhoods
Izmir Metropolitan Municipality will provide forest neighborhoods with a set for the first response to possible fires. The set will include a water tanker, a container with hoses, pumps and other necessary tools. The Metropolitan Municipality, which started the preparations for the procurement tender, plans to deliver the sets to the neighborhood headmen in September.
Izmir Living Parks
After the great Izmir fire in 2019, work was started to bring Izmir to living parks and the Living Parks Department was established under the Park and Gardens Department. People from 7 to 70 will be able to learn what is the forest ecosystem, which trees and which animals live in these parks, by touching and experiencing. The first example of this work will be realized in the Yelki District of Güzelbahçe, under the name Olivelo Living Park.
Aegean and Mediterranean Natural Landscape Plants Guide
Within the scope of the Natural Green Project, plant species native to the Aegean and Mediterranean regions were collected in this guide. These are plants that grow spontaneously, with the rains, without the need for irrigation. 117 plant species were introduced with their photos and features. This book has been prepared with the aim of guiding the plant growing cooperatives, the landscape sector and cultivating plant species that will support the resistant green cover works of the Metropolitan Municipality. Individual citizens will be able to plant these useful and aesthetic species in their own gardens.
Fire Resistant Trees Nursery
Fire resistant plant seedlings need to be developed and spread after they are produced in cooperatives. The Metropolitan Municipality is establishing a large nursery in Torbalı in order to develop the saplings it will purchase from the cooperatives before planting. Only seedlings of landscape plants that are fire resistant and do not require irrigation will be grown here. The tender for the project will be released in the coming days. The nursery is scheduled to open in January 2022.
International Mediterranean Forests Conference
There is a lot of scientific research and a serious academic background on Mediterranean forests, not only in Mediterranean countries, but also around the world. In these studies, “What should be done after forest fires?”, “Should saplings be planted in burned areas? Should it not be planted?”, “Which tree species should the forest cover consist of?” There are answers to many important questions such as: The scientists who carried out these studies will be invited to Izmir. You will have scientific knowledge about forest policies, pre-fire and post-fire studies. The conference, which can shed light on Turkey's forest policies, is planned to be held in the first quarter of next year.
Support for honey producers
The bee population and honey producers in the burned areas suffered greatly. Izmir Metropolitan Municipality decided to buy all the honey they have in order to support these producers. These products will be included in food packages that are regularly delivered to those in need in the city. Metropolitan experts will also provide technical support to honey producers on how they can create a production model in the next process.
Support to small cattle producers
Izmir Metropolitan Municipality also prepared a support package for small cattle producers in fire areas. According to the decision, which was unanimously accepted by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Council, 7 thousand sacks (350 tons) of lamb rearing feed will be given to producers engaged in ovine breeding affected by fire in Muğla and its districts.