Friday, December 1, 2023

Environmentalists slam governments for limited resources to combat wildfires

Claiming that fire management policy has been “practically forgotten,” a group of environmental organizations has urged all three levels of government to allocate sufficient funds to combat the growing wildfire problem in Mexico.

“It’s clear that today, there is not the capacity or sufficient institutional resources to attend to the number of fires that are currently occurring in the country,” the organizations, among which are Greenpeace, the Mexican Civil Council for Sustainable Forestry and the Mexico Climate Initiative, said in a statement.

They claimed that Mexico this year has faced the worst forest fires in a decade.

“… The policy of fire management has been practically forgotten. The civil society organizations demand that the federal government …[develop] a comprehensive fire prevention and management strategy,” the statement said, adding that forest communities and social enterprises should be involved in the strategy.

The environmental organizations, among which are also several smaller, local groups, also demanded that federal, state and municipal authorities allocate “sufficient budget resources, personnel and material to be able to attend to the management of fire in the country in a comprehensive, systematic and preventative way.”

Forest fire in Valle de Bravo, México state last month.
Forest fire in Valle de Bravo, México state, last month.

The authorities should immediately support communities affected by fire and rebuild damaged infrastructure, they added.

The organizations noted that, according to weekly National Forest Commission reports, there have been 3,735 forest fires in 2021 across 29 of Mexico’s 32 states. More than 127,000 hectares of land have been affected, they said.

The most affected states have been Nuevo León, Oaxaca, México, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Chiapas, Durango, Michoacán, Puebla and Baja California. Not helping matters is the fact that more than 70% of Mexico is currently experiencing drought conditions.

“In recent years, there has been a series of catastrophic fires both at a global and national level. In 2017 in Mexico, forest fires destroyed 172,076 hectares of territory, 92,243 hectares the following year and 69,047 hectares in 2019. All these figures have been easily surpassed so far this year,” the environmental groups said.

“This problem … has worsened in recent years due to global climate change, and it’s becoming even worse in Mexico due to the dismantling of environmental institutions in charge of designing, implementing, coordinating and evaluating actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” they said.

A temporary employment program that hired workers to carry out fire prevention work was discontinued in 2019 and the federal government also abolished the natural disaster relief fund Fonden, which provided resources to combat forest fires.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 78 active wildfires in Mexico, according to Mexico's forest management agency Conafor.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 78 active wildfires in Mexico, according to Mexico’s forest management agency Conafor.

Several other environmental organizations have also recently criticized the federal government for its policies, or lack thereof, to combat global warming.

López Obrador’s address to last week’s Leaders Summit on Climate “fell short in ambition,” said young Mexican activist Xiye Bastida.

Mexico forestry agency Conafor said on Twitter that as of 11 a.m. Tuesday the nation was battling 78 active forest fires in 17 states. Fifteen of those fires were in Michoacán, the state with the most active fires at the moment.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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