From disaster management to resource management
The phrase “unprecedented” has become a common description in recent years, in media reports of natural disasters such as wildfires, droughts and floods. It seems the world is witnessing a series of record-breaking calamities, befitting records in sports, except it’s not trivial competitions like basketball and swimming.
Natural disasters cause huge human losses and billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure and property. What makes matters worse is that these are expected to become more frequent and stronger, due to climate change, and what we consider “unprecedented” today will become “precedent” a year later.
While it is true that these natural disasters are largely due to the effects of climate change, it is also true that an underlying cause is due to failure of planning, from land use to forests and water, and the management of natural resources in general . Therefore, it should not be acceptable to sit idly by and wait for the necessary reduction in carbon emissions to limit rising temperatures and deal with climate change.
Climate change has become an excuse that some officials use to justify shortfalls, as if they have neither the power nor the ability to prevent deterioration. In many cases, the action is almost limited to preparing to deal with disasters after they occur, such as spending huge budgets on firefighting equipment, including vehicles, aircraft and machinery. sophisticated, while neglecting good planning and staff training.
Forest fires will increase and the Arab region will not be spared.
It won’t be the last time that fires have destroyed forests in Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, or dried up water in rivers and underground wells, from North Africa to East Asia. west, passing through the Nile Valley and the Gulf. The temperature in Basra reaching the maximum ever recorded on earth, as it happened at the beginning of this month, will not be a passing event either.
All this calls for moving quickly from disaster management to resource management, according to integrated scientific programs, in addition to developing proactive plans to deal with emergencies, starting by anticipating them well before they occur. occur.
One of the basic measures of forest management is to plant several different types of trees. Some trees are more susceptible to drought and therefore more likely to burn, which helps the fire spread quickly to large areas.
The diversity of forest trees also helps to control diseases and harmful insects, such as a type of worm, whose flocks move in processions and strike the oak trees after nesting in them. In addition to killing trees, this poisonous hairy worm has a dangerous effect on humans, causing fatal damage to the eyes and respiratory system.
The oak spread over large areas of Europe, for its ease of cultivation and rapid growth, while other species were neglected. The spread of the poisonous worm has been facilitated by the reduction of its natural enemies, such as birds and insects.
For years, vast campaigns have been carried out to restore diversity to forest trees, with the aim of giving them immunity. When some oak trees dry out and become an easy target for fire, other types of trees will remain to ensure the survival of the forest.
While it was believed that dead leaves, twigs and trunks should be left on the forest floor as they help nourish the soil, rapid climate change now necessitates the removal of much of the forest. between them, because they cause fires.
Contrary to what some environmental groups demand in good faith not to build roads inside forests and to prevent any cutting of trees, it is necessary to build corridors and establish tree-free spaces, in order to divide the forest into different areas isolated from each other by spaces that block the spread of fires.
This also makes it easier for fire crews to access in an emergency. A useful measure is to encourage the grazing of animals in these areas to rid them of weeds.
Some people were surprised to learn earlier this year that the US Forest Service had started fires that covered large swathes of forests between the United States and Mexico. These fires, which got out of control due to execution errors, were deliberately intended to prevent larger fires.
This is a traditional practice known since ancient times, where natives set fire to a specific drought-stricken area, after isolating it from its surroundings, as a preventive measure to prevent the sudden outbreak of a fire at an inopportune moment and its uncontrolled spread. to other areas.
There is also a need to strengthen monitoring capabilities to detect the outbreak of fires at an early stage, whether through human monitoring or by installing sensors or via satellites, which can detect the rapid increase in temperature of a particular area. This must be accompanied by the identification of the places most at risk and their classification as hot spots requiring special attention.
Since many forest areas are privately owned, there is a need to educate and train owners and neighborhood residents on preventive care, in addition to fire response techniques.
No less important than the forest fires are the recent exceptional droughts, which cannot be solved by ad hoc emergency measures and cannot wait for the reduction of carbon emissions.
Climate change is certainly exacerbating droughts and water scarcity, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t quick fixes that can be implemented through better water management and sustainable food production. .
In the Arab region, the belief is growing that before other countries can claim the inalienable right to a greater share of river water, downstream countries must improve water efficiency and reduce wastage. They should also plan to improve food security by choosing crop types suitable for dry areas and requiring less water, even if this requires a change in certain dietary habits.
The droughts that hit Europe this summer prompted governments to discover major policy and management gaps, with a lack of proactive planning.
The Netherlands, for example, has found that low water prices do not encourage consumers to save water. Spain has also discovered the danger of continuing to play the role of Europe’s vegetable and fruit garden, just to meet the demands of greedy markets and generate more profits. The hundreds of dams Spain had built in its arid regions are no longer enough to irrigate ever-expanding land dedicated to growing profitable export crops, as well as irrigating golf courses for tourists.
The problem therefore cannot be reduced to the exacerbation of drought and water scarcity due to climate change, but also to the imbalance between limited renewable resources and economic ambitions.
Rational management of resources, which respects nature’s capacities and limits, is cheaper and more feasible than relying on state-of-the-art equipment to deal with disasters.