Forests constitute less than one per cent of Jordan’s total area.

This relatively small area is constantly decreasing due to factors like climate change, urbanisation, illegal logging and fires.

If authorities and the public cannot do much about climate change, they can do a lot to control the three other elements.

Now that the hot season is fast approaching, the threat of forest fires is bound to increase.

On Friday, the Kingdom witnessed its first fires of the season near Tal Al Rumman. The fire happened in the Kingdom’s only botanic garden – destroying a total of 200 dunums of dry grass, shrubs and 90 forest trees.

The authorities are investigating the cause and are yet to announce the results to the public.

One reason might have been picnickers who were enjoying the weekend spring day in large numbers, many having barbecues in or near forest areas around the country. Or it could have been a cigarette butt thrown recklessly into a bush area.

Whatever the reason, this fire should ring the alarm bell and prompt authorities, particularly the Civil Defence Department, to start, without delay, awareness campaigns aimed at preventing forest fires. That can be done through the media or by distributing pamphlets to picnickers in and near forest areas.

Awareness campaigns need also be conducted in schools before the school year is over, as the youth can play an active role within their families, drawing attention to the danger of leaving fire unattended or behaving otherwise irresponsibly.

The young ones can also be taught how important forests are and about the need to protect the country’s ecosystem and its biodiversity. Maybe at one stage, the ministries of education and higher education will consider introducing community service classes that would involve the students in preserving and increasing forest areas.

At the same time, traffic police should show no leniency against motorists who violate the law by throwing cigarettes from car windows.

Hefty fines should be imposed on violators who both threaten the country’s forests and add more burden on the Civil Defence Department that has its plate full during the hot season, on the Ministry of Agriculture that has to make up for destroyed forest areas and on farmers who lose crops as a result.