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Sardinian Arsons

“Stizia Du Pìghiri” Let Justice Take you!

The Association "L’Uomo che Pianta gli Alberi“(The Man Who Plants the Trees) is interested in the protection of the environment, concretely cooperating in the reforestation of the territory, planting trees but restoring awareness and power to people as well. They interviewed Giorgio Pelosio, Teletron Euroricerche Administrator, who deals with environmental safety systems, on the plague of fires in Sardinia

The expert's opinion is that the devastation caused to the territory by the summer arsonists must not continue to be passively suffered but must be avoided and reduced with severe measures. Fire in Sardinia has ancient roots in rural culture. To create or clean up the land to be cultivated, or to renew the pastures, fertilizing and improving the turf to feed the flocks, the stubble was set on fire. However, to prevent the fire from becoming an arson, there was always someone closely attending that the fire didn’t get out of control.

Ardon or unattended fire was always considered a crime prosecuted since the Judicial era. Pelosio reminds us that in the Charta De Logu there are at least five chapters devoted to the fire’s regulations: culpable ones were punished with fines and the reimbursement of the damage caused; the malicious ones, divided into burning houses and burning cultivated land, provided the death penalty in the first case and the cut of the right hand in the second one, if the arsonist was not in a position to refund the damage caused.

Yes, the wise Judge of Sardinia Eleanor of Arborea, very well knowing the calamity that fires could cause to the territory, introduced in the Charta the guidelines on the times and ways to burn the stubble and limit the damage by creating firebreaks.

If yew trees and olive trees have lived until today, it means that formerly there was the culture and respect for these plants, so numerous in Sardinia. Today, however, holm oaks, arbutus trees, yews and junipers are fewer and fewer. Wrong reforestation, in addition to fires, have a great accountability for. Reforestation with eucalyptus is harmful because this plant, which is able to absorb 200-300 litres of water a day, leads to further drying up of areas already implicated because of the fire. 

Unfortunately, this has been used recklessly in the last 50 years, although Sardinia does not have many areas where the use of eucalyptus trees could be suitable, i.e., areas that need water absorption such as water treatment plants or marshy areas to be reclaimed, as it has been well known by those who utilized it in the reclamation of the Pontine Marshes. Reforestation is a solution, but it takes hundreds, thousands of years to reproduce a forest of yews or oaks. In Sardinia yews of 2/3000 years and millenary olive trees famous all over the world such as S'Ozzastru: The Oldest Olive Tree are still living.

Thus, eliminating the species for which it would take millennia to become adult plants, we could focus on the Mediterranean scrub which, as Pelosio tells us, “Is an extraordinary umbrella for the soil, because it confines water damage when rain arrives, in some cases torrential, limiting the washout of the soil where the humus would be completely transferred to the valley". In 5-10 years, the humus would constitute a valid layer of soil protection, thus favouring the growth of Sardinia’s endemic plants. 

The Sardinia desertification could be avoided by placing the Mediterranean scrub and the woods as an environmental priority. It is above all a fact of a cultural nature. Fires are a life attempt, and justice should intervene with heavy penalties

Sardinia wants, and must, keep the Sardinian tourist map attractive for tourists looking for the sea on the coast and greenery hinterland, where the woods are. Pelosio comments: “With EU funds, a reforestation plan could be made for all burnt areas in Sardinia, considering that reforestation contributes to the reduction of CO2. And this activity could see a lot of people (workers, foresters, etc.) engaged in a year-round activity. And in the summer, if the Canadair really have to fly, let them fly by applying overhead irrigation systems that can spray fresh water on reforestation”. When Canadair draws water from the sea to extinguish fires, the salt has a devastating effect on the ground for plants that, if not already born marine in salted water, simply die.

On the other hand, however, many people are to be thanked for: the specialized and trained volunteers. In many regions, most of the firefighting activities are entrusted to volunteers for both observation and identification. While, last but not least, a grateful thank you goes to the valuable help of the Compagnia Barracellare: Police Force Of Sardinia.

Secret hand spreading that fire,

You burn your homeland for so little

From now on before you turn on the fire,

“Stizia Du Pìghiri”, let Justice take you! - (Bruno Tognolini)

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Written by Daniela Toti

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