Smoking has been banned in all Flemish forests and nature reserves to reduce the risk of fire.
The ban comes from Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA), who told De Standaard that climate change is at the root of the decision.
“There will be more and more long periods of drought,” Demir said. “The result is an increased risk of fire.”
There were already multiple fire incidents in nature areas this year, according to Demir, including the 570 hectares of a nature reserve that went up in flames after a military shooting exercise in Brecht in April.
Less than a month later, there was a serious fire in the Kalmthoutse Heath nature reserve near the Belgian-Dutch border.
“In recent years we have seen what drought can do, and the risk will not diminish in the future,” Demir warned.
Already at the beginning of June it was decided that a province can designate different colour codes - yellow, orange or red - if there is an increased risk of fire.
From code yellow onwards, naked flames are banned in those nature reserves.
But what Minister Demir has now decided goes much further.
“I want to definitively prevent future risks,” Demir said. “Hence a general ban.”
From now on, starting a fire will only be permitted in designated campfire areas.
In addition to reducing the risk of fire, Demir also hopes the ban will reduce waste.
According to a study by the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM), 49 percent of all waste collected in nature reserves is cigarette butts.
Demir also estimates that 60 percent of cigarette butts are not retrieved and continue to pollute the natural environment.
“By introducing a smoking ban in our nature reserves and forests, we are protecting our environment a little better,” Demir said.
The Brussels Times