Agriculture Minister Petros Xenofontos hailed the beginning of this year’s forest protection week with a call for the public to be vigilant against the threat of fires.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Xenofontos emphasised the importance of collective effort in preserving the natural heritage of Cyprus.

The minister said that climate change threatens forests which are “nature’s backbone”.

He emphasised that the government takes these threats very seriously – with the forestry department’s budget up to €71 million in 2023 compared to €45m in 2020.

He stated that the recent increase in malicious forest fires has made it essential for all citizens to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.

“Forests are an invaluable natural heritage, and their protection requires a continuous and collective effort from the state and the public,” Xenofontos said. “The recent increase in malicious forest fires requires us to remain vigilant and to act responsibility, by avoiding thoughtless actions and activities that could cause a fire.

He also stressed the need for the public to be mindful of situations that are not caused by negligence but by intent. “It is essential that we report any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately, as every second counts in preventing forest fires,” he said.

The theme of this year’s forest protection week is “with a conscience of responsibility”.

Xenofontos called on the public to embrace this slogan and work together to effectively address the problem of forest fires and protect Cyprus’ natural wealth.

The minister also announced that the government has taken steps to improve forest management and protection, including the creation of a new forestry department and the allocation of additional resources to fire-fighting units.

As part of the campaign, the government has organised a series of events and activities across the country to raise awareness about the importance of forests and the role they play in the environment. The events include seminars, workshops, and educational activities for schools and universities.

Xenofontos concluded by saying that all must take a proactive role in protecting Cyprus’ forests.

“I urge everyone to embrace their responsibility and take action to protect our natural heritage. Together we can make a difference,” he said.