Reactions to the government’s new forest bill rumble on, as WWF launches a letter-writing campaign against it

Reactions to the publication of «the substantive amendments» in the government’s new forest bill, promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, are gathering steam. Last Monday (September 29), Communist Party (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga met with representatives of the Geotechnical and Technical chambers of Greece and the Panhellenic Union of Public Forestry Officials in order to discuss the draft bill. At the same time, the Greek branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has called on people to actively oppose the legislation that would lead to the declassification of forests and forestland. The definition of forest and forestland in the bill, in order to «avoid arbitrary decisions by employees and the hemming-in of citizens,» will effectively lead to the declassification of 3 million hectares of forestland, much of which lies in areas subject to great building pressure. Immediately after the meeting with the representatives of the Geotechnical and Technical chambers, Papariga said that the KKE felt that the way had already been paved for the clearance of forests and forestland through the new legislation, depicted by the government as a tidying-up of loose ends. The KKE views government intentions as criminal, she said, adding that her party was determined to throw its weight behind a real resistance «since we are moving toward the clearing and commercialization of forests and forestland, and on the pretext of upholding the people’s interests at that.» WWF Greece has also urged people to action. It points out that the re-emergence of the forest bill at the present juncture has a clearly pre-electoral tilt, given that the Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Public Works was pushing through a bill on illegal buildings at the same time. According to the WWF: «Forests and forestland might be largely state-owned, but that doesn’t mean they don’t belong to anybody. They belong to all of us and it’s time that we realized their usefulness and manifold functions and demand they are preserved for the next generations.» WWF Greece is proposing a letter campaign (a model letter can be found on its website, to the Ministry of Agriculture (e-mail [email protected], fax number 210.523.7904) to make citizen’s views on the bill known to the agriculture minister. The letter points out that the Agriculture Ministry’s draft bill neither protects forest ecosystems nor solves ownership and land use problems. It demands the bill be withdrawn forthwith and forest maps be drawn up so the existing situation is clarified.