Bikers carve up Pendeli forest

Parts of forest areas on Mount Pendeli, northern Athens, are being illegally destroyed to make way for motorcross racing as authorities so far seem unable to stop the problem, residents told Kathimerini. Unidentified men are believed to be visiting the area in the evening and stripping the bark off trees as a means of making it easier to later cut down the forest to allow for the creation of a racetrack, according to residents. «The stripping of the bark, particularly at a young age, is certain to cause the trees to wither, as the bark amounts to its skin and gives it the ability to survive,» said agriculturalist Fotis Katsikaros. The area is guarded by a single forest ranger who claims to be unable to properly supervise the hundreds of hectares of forest area. Forest protection is therefore left to volunteers. «With bags, we go into the area and try to clean up what has been left behind by these visitors,» said Theodoris Tsirikakis, a local resident who has been leading the battle to save the forest. «At the same time, we try to introduce reforestation. However, it seems that the others work harder and more thoroughly than we do,» he added. In a bid to clear the path for the bike racing quicker, the culprits are believed to have been burning small bushes and clearing the area of rocks. Apart from destroying the environment, residents argue that this has made the area more dangerous for people walking through the forest. With municipal elections only a month away, Kifissia Mayor Nikos Hiotakis told Kathimerini that he is committed to the fight against the nightly invaders. «We will take action in order to tackle the problem,» he said. The mayor added that he will seek the help of local police to protect the area with nightly patrols.