NEWS

First forest maps approved

The country?s first three official forest maps have been approved, according to Environment Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who is overseeing a government initiative aimed at curbing illegal construction on forestland.

The three maps delineate the boundaries of forests in three areas: Antheia in Alexandroupoli and Xiria in Kavala, both in northern Greece, and Lechaina in Ileia. The latter prefecture is one of those to have suffered the most damage from forest fires over the past few years.

The maps for these areas had been put on public display over the summer to allow landowners and local authorities to submit any objections regarding their accuracy. The finalized maps were approved last month, Papaconstantinou and the ministry?s general secretary for forests, Giorgos Amorgianiotis, told reporters.

Similar maps outlining forestland in the Attica regions of Marathon and Pendeli also went up on public display in the summer but have yet to be finalized and approved, chiefly because certain objections have yet to be resolved.

The goal of the initiative, Papaconstantinou said, is to determine what constitutes forestland and the legal status of homes that have been built in wooded areas. ?This paradox, where highly developed areas are also considered forestland, will be resolved once all the forest maps are completed,? the minister said. The ultimate aim, he added, was to ?end the current state of uncertainty for citizens and local authorities while also offering greater protection for areas that are actually forestland and not for areas that we continue to refer to as forestland even though they have been steadily developed over the past 30 to 40 years.?

Asked by Kathimerini to explain what criteria would be used to determine which residential areas will remain classified as forestland and which would not, the minister did not answer the question directly, noting that certain ?constitutional issues? remained unresolved. He said a circular would be sent out in due course explaining the process.