Doc. 9993

5 November 2003

Forest fires: the consequences for the environment and the effect of spatial planning policies

Motion for a recommendation

presented by Mr Nazaré Pereira and others

This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it

1.       Every year European forests are devastated by fire, particularly in southern Europe. These forest fires have disastrous consequences for the environment: destruction of vegetation, intensification of the greenhouse effect, depletion of the ozone layer, reduced biodiversity and increased soil erosion (with accumulation of sediments in watercourses, leading to flooding during the rainy seasons), etc.

2.       Furthermore, fires also destroy property (houses and monuments, etc) and kill wild animals and livestock, and even human beings. In Portugal, in 2003 alone, 21 deaths were directly attributed to forest fires.

3.       Several reasons have been advanced to explain these outbreaks of forest fires. Apart from arson, outbreaks of forest fires and their rapid spread are apparently facilitated by inappropriate spatial planning policies. Desertification of the countryside, economic devaluation of agricultural by-products (waste wood, bushes, straw, etc), promotion of forestry monocultures, setting aside of farmland, encouraging the slow utilisation of biomass for energy purposes, inappropriate or non-existent forest management plans and flawed or ineffective planning of access routes, firebreaks and hydrants are just a few of the reasons frequently advanced.

4.       When large-scale forest fires break out, the regions and countries affected seldom have sufficient resources to fight them effectively. Transfrontier co-operation is needed, but such co-operation is hampered by unwieldy procedures which often fail to define the responsibilities enabling fire brigades and civil defence units from one country to help fight fires in the territory of another, even though the fires and their consequences very often transcend borders and therefore do necessitate co-operation between several different countries.

5.       The Council of Europe must analyse the environmental and social consequences of forest fires in Europe, including the effects of present-day agricultural, forestry and spatial planning policies on the outbreak and spread of fires.

6.       The Council of Europe might also identify and promote the adoption of agricultural, forestry, spatial planning and natural, human and technical resource management practices capable of reducing the risk and the spread of forest fires, as well as promoting effective means of preventing and combating these fires.

7.       Furthermore, the Council of Europe could promote models for intergovernmental co-operation in order to facilitate and expedite the deployment of resources from third countries to help fight forest fires throughout Europe.

8.       The Parliamentary Assembly calls on member states:

      i. to study the impact of agricultural, forestry and spatial planning policies on the outbreak and spread of forest fires;

      ii. to adopt measures in the fields of forestry and technical and human resource management aimed at cutting the risk and limiting the spread of fires in European forests;

      iii. to develop forest management and conservation in such a way as to promote alternative uses of the combustible biomass of forest waste products.

9.       The Parliamentary Assembly calls on the Committee of Ministers:

      i. to conduct an assessment of the environmental consequences of forest fires in Europe;

      ii. to conduct an in-depth analysis of the impact of the agricultural, forestry and spatial planning policies implemented in member states on the conditions for the outbreak and spread of forest fires;

      iii. to recommend that member states improve their practices in terms of spatial planning, utilisation of agricultural products and forest management with a view to reducing the spread of forest fires;

      iv. to adopt rules on co-operation among member states to help foresters, fire brigades and civil defence units from other member States to fight forest fires.

Signed 1:

Nazaré Pereira, Portugal, EPP/CD

Açikgöz, Turkey, EDG

Agudo, Spain, SOC

Bruce, United Kingdom, LDR

Çavuşoğlu, Turkey, LDR

Coifan, Romania, LDR

De Puig, Spain, SOC

Etherington, United Kingdom, SOC

Fehr, Switzerland, LDR

Flynn, United Kingdom, SOC

Goulet, France, LDR

Gubert, Italy, EPP/CD

Krohn, Finland, NR

Martínez Casañ, Spain, EPP/CD

Meale, United Kingdom, SOC

Mocioi, Romania, NR

Nessa, Italy, EPP/CD

O’Hara, United Kingdom, SOC

Padilla, Spain, EPP/CD

Platvoet, Netherlands, NR

Rizzi, Italy, EPP/CD

Schicker, Austria, SOC

Schmied, Switzerland, LDR

Wray, United Kingdom, SOC

1        SOC: Socialist Group

      EPP/CD: Group of the European People’s Party

      EDG: European Democratic Group

      LDR : Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group

      UEL: Group of the Unified European Left

      NR: not registered in a group