NEWS

Trees sacrificed for 2004

Two months ago, the Education Ministry children’s campsite at Aghios Andreas, Attica, lost dozens of its pine trees. Although the relevant authorities have declared no knowledge of the issue, local residents are calling for a clear answer as to why the trees have been felled and the root system of even more trees destroyed in the camping ground. The site did not open this past summer because of construction work under way on infrastructure for the Olympic Media Village which is to be built on the site. In June, when the first bulldozers took up position at the entrance to the site, locals became concerned. Last year, when it was made known that the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee was intending to «develop» the site by installing prefabricated housing for journalists covering the Games, protests were restricted to the possible future use of the site, and vague fears that the character of what has always been a summer recreation area would be altered. Two months ago, the bulldozers began to dig channels for underground pipes and other infrastructure. As the next day dawned, dozens of felled pine trees were piled on the ground next to mounds of rubble and many others were dying after their roots were damaged by the digging. Kathimerini asked Athens 2004 what purpose was served by the felling of even more of Attica’s few remaining trees. The disarming reply was that the project design provided for the conservation of all existing trees. However, the organization did «not know whether during construction work, it might become necessary to sacrifice a tree.» This approach is an unsuccessful attempt by Athens 2004 to absolve itself of any blame. It is absurd for anyone to believe that Athens 2004 does not monitor progress in these projects, or even worse, that the state authorities took the initiative to fell as many trees as were in bulldozers’ path without consulting the project design and without the necessary permits. Within the next few months, 609 prefabricated houses are to be built to replace the tents that housed children’s camps until last year. No one knows how many trees will have to be cut down, apparently at will. If this coming winter is as extreme as last year’s, who knows how many more trees will be blown down.