Illegal tree-felling spiked in 2012

Over 13,000 tons of wood logged illicitly as Greeks turn to cheaper forms of heating

The practice of illegally felling trees for firewood, which is becoming increasingly popular as cash-strapped Greeks seek cheaper alternatives for heating their homes, increased dramatically over the last year, according to Environment Ministry statistics made public Tuesday.

The ministry put the amount of illegally cut logs at more than 13,000 tons last year, saying its services received a total of 3,105 complaints regarding incidents of illegal tree-felling. Citizens wanting to report similar cases should telephone the ministry’s coordinating center for forest protection on 1591.

According to data gathered from the country’s seven decentralized regional authorities, the forestry services in Epirus and Western Macedonia had the greatest success in tracing illegal loggers, confiscating a total of 6,000 tons of wood.

Next in line were the regional authorities of Thessaly and mainland Greece, who confiscated 2,536 tons of illegally acquired timber, followed by forestry chiefs in Macedonia and Thrace, who seized 2,285 tons of illegal wood.

At the end of last month, ministry authorities announced a series of measures in a bid to curb the increase in illegal tree-felling. These included a preventive ban on the circulation of trucks transporting timber on the national and provincial road network at night, when most cases of illegal logging are believed to occur.

In a related development, it emerged Tuesday that a group of scientists from seven research centers will be taking smog readings in a number of Greek cities from January 10 to February 10 to gauge the environmental impact from the increased use of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.