Illegal forest homes blooming

A complex maze of bureaucracy, along with the poor implementation of legislation and crossed communication between state services have paved the way for illegal construction activity in the forest of Mount Pendeli forest, in northern Athens, according to documents seen by Sunday's Kathimerini. The region has seen a number of luxury homes pop up in more than a decade after a large fire in 1990. The blaze burnt 512 hectares of land which had since been earmarked for reforestation, with the exemption of 14 hectares. The reasons behind this exemption are not clear. Data show that building cooperatives immediately moved in and obtained building permits for the 14-hectare area. The permits were then revoked in 1999 by state services following years of petitioning by environmental groups. However, during the nine-year period many homes were built. Research by Kathimerini also showed that a number of these homes belong to staff employed in the local town-planning offices. Since then the issue has gone to the Council of State's legal service which stated in a 2005 report that the permits should only be re-examined if there are reasons to believe that the construction activity may be «destructive.» Building illegally in a forest does not appear to be considered destructive. Over the last decade, fires have destroyed some 14,000 hectares of forestland in Attica. Of that amount, only 7,500 hectares has been set aside for reforestation. On Mount Pendeli, forest rangers estimate that 22 building cooperatives are seeking land burned by fires in recent years.