The government has allocated €11.2 million in the 2024 state budget for the purchase and lease of firefighting aircraft, Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos said on Sunday.

The money will go towards the purchase or lease of two firefighting helicopters and four firefighting aeroplanes.

Xenophontos was speaking at the Tree festival, and said the government is also looking into either leasing or buying a coordination aircraft as well as personnel to fly it for a period of six months in 2024, while considering the option for future years.

To this end, he said “the government will continue to strengthen the Forestry department both in terms of human resources and land and aerial vehicles, so the department can plan and face the challenges which fire protection presents with more confidence and more efficiency.”

Speaking of the work carried out in this regard by the government so far, he said “improving the operational capacity of the Forestry department as a result of improved planning and organisation, as well as the strengthening of the forest fire response system, has limited major disaster as much as possible.”

Additionally, he spoke of the “important role of forests for Mediterranean countries such as Cyprus in the midst of the effects of climate change.”

He mentioned the government’s “Planting for the climate” scheme, in which saplings are given to public bodies and organised groups, as evidence of the government taking climate change seriously and helping Cyprus’ forests grow.

“What I can assure you is that the Agriculture ministry and the Forestry department … are managing Cypriot forests based on the principle of sustainability, so as to ensure the maximum environmental and social benefit for present and future generations,” he said.

On the point of future generations, he said events such as the Tree festival “are of particular importance and value because they our aimed at the young, the generation which is the future of our country and in which we must invest more.”

“The tree can live without a man, but a man cannot live without a tree,” he said.