Maroussi throws ball into WWF’s court over estate

Local residents’ strong objections to the municipality of Maroussi’s «strategic plan» for the Syngrou estate in northern Athens have led the municipality to commission a study from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Hellas on the management of the 96-hectare park, which lies on the boundaries of Maroussi, Kifissia and Melissia. «We want the study to be a process involving cooperation between the WWF, the Institute for Agricultural Research, the three municipalities and local residents’ groups,» said Dimitris Karavelas, director of WWF Hellas. Expected to be completed within the next three to four months, the study will be carried out free of charge. No funding has as yet been secured for the eventual implementation of the plan. «The experience of the WWF and their success in the initiatives they have taken in the past lead us to believe that they are the most appropriate organization to play the role of main coordinator in an important environmental issue such as the Syngrou estate,» Maroussi’s Mayor Panayiotis Tzanikos told a press conference this week. Tzanikos said the WWF’s proposal had the agreement of the Institute for Agricultural Research, which is by law the sole administrator of the Syngrou estate, although at Tuesday’s press conference not a single member of the institute was present. The Friends of Syngrou Forest are not in agreement with the plan. They favor a study focusing on the reforestation of the area. The group has raised serious objections to any change of land use in the form of «theme parks,» «ecology parks» and other recreational uses. Of the 96 hectares, 70 are classified as forest and the rest (bordering Kifissias Avenue) are classified as farmland. The group also accused the Maroussi municipality of indifference to the illegality of a building used by boy scouts within the forest. The Friends of Syngrou Forest have managed to obtain a court order from the Council of State against a recent plan by the local municipalities to «improve» the park. «In any case, simply conserving the forest, managing the rainwater and reforestation is a much cheaper solution than that proposed by the municipal authorities,» said Amaryllis Deliyiannis, a member of the group. It now seems that Maroussi Town Hall is attempting to show its concern for the environment by assigning the study to the WWF.