NEWS

Early action to tackle summer wildfires

Early action to tackle summer wildfires

Greek government planning to prevent or at the very least mitigate the effects of wildfires has started earlier than ever this year.

Officials are keen to avoid a repeat of last summer’s disastrous fires, which hit the island of Evia especially hard. It is not just the environmental degradation, the displacement and impoverishment of people and the enormous cost to repair the damage and aid the afflicted communities, costs that are harder to bear when other crises are now demanding the state’s attention and resources. It is also the political cost, the reputational damage that would result with elections looming at most a year from next summer, if not earlier.

To this effect, the government is mobilizing resources and placing greater importance on local authorities’ actions to prevent fires.

Individual property owners have always been responsible for clearing their properties of overgrown vegetation and many have neglected doing so, without usually facing consequences. Legislation in the form of an amendment to an existing law will be introduced soon to make it easier for municipalities to intervene and clear those properties neglected by their owners.

This plan will require nearly €100 million to implement. Of that, €25 million will be spent on a program called “Dryads” that will focus on fires in green spaces and forests near urban areas, such as that which devastated the seaside resort of Mati, east of Athens, in July 2018, resulting in over 100 deaths.

Another program, “Antinero,” funded to the tune of €50 million, will concern forests and scrubland in the countryside. Although those responsible for the two programs are Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Stylianides and Deputy Environment Minister Giorgos Amyras, Dryads will be managed by the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, which normally oversees state asset privatizations.

Also, municipalities will be funded to the tune of €18.4 million by the Interior Ministry to purchase equipment and implement their own firefighting programs.