Address by the General Secretary of AKEL A.Kyprianou at AKEL’s Pancyprian Tree Planting initiative
Saturday 9th November 2019, Delikipo village
I welcome you all to today’s tree planting initiative organized by the C.C. of AKEL. First of all, I would like to thank the Forestry Department for its assistance and cooperation so that today’s volunteer initiative by AKEL can take place.
AKEL considers such initiatives as an integral part of its work and activity. At times like this when the climate and the planet, but especially our country is facing the threat of climate change and what that entails, events such as the one we are organising today have their own significance. Forests have a special place and importance in nature and contribute substantially to humanity’s economic and social development.
Unfortunately, this year has been marked by terrible environmental developments, most notably the Amazon fires. July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded, while at the same time there has been a dramatic increase in the number of fires in areas such as Alaska, Greenland and Siberia which previously had never witnessed any fires. The fires in the Amazon add to this scary domino effect now turning climate change into not just a climate crisis, but an ecological nightmare that raises dramatic questions about our planet’s future.
As far as our own country is concerned, according to a report published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the European Fire Information System, in 2018, 131 forest fires broke out in Cyprus that burned 1,136 hectares of forest. Six of these fires were over 50 hectares in size. Of the 131 forest fires that occurred, 27 forest fires (about 21%) were of unspecified origin, while 59 forest fires were lit deliberately. Around 28% were due to negligence and just 15% down to natural causes.
The numbers themselves illustrate the magnitude of the problem, especially in our country where water scarcity, desertification, land use change and so much more are all exacerbating environmental problems. The rapid pace of climate change represents a serious threat to the stability of forest ecosystems.
The precious value of forests for humanity and the environment on the one hand, and their continuous shrinkage on the other, make the need for protective measures to be taken imperative.
At a national level, a comprehensive plan and organization is needed to protect the natural environment that will utilize modern technologies for the protection and upgrading of our forests. The shrinking of forests is for sure not a Cypriot phenomenon. Deforestation affects humans and animals throughout the whole world, given that approximately 250 million people living in forests and savannah regions depend on them for their livelihoods and incomes, including many of the world’s poor farmers. At the same time deforestation threatens many species of land animals as 80% live there.
We have gathered here today symbolically because we consider the protection of the environment and the importance of defending it as a top priority. We are also making our own contribution to the effort made by hundreds of thousands of citizens, both in Cyprus and abroad, for the mass planting of trees.
However, at the same time, we realize that this alone cannot solve the many problems our planet is facing. This certainly isn’t AKEL’s solution to them. For us, the only viable option for survival is to change direction with regards production and consumption. The development of a different economy, where the main criterion will not be the profitability of capital, but the maintenance of ecological balance to society’s social benefit.
AKEL will continue to contribute whenever and wherever it can to make people’s daily lives better, because we all have the right to live in a clean and safe environment.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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