Election threat to forests

Extreme weather conditions, a lack of organization and infrastructure and, above all, the municipal elections in October may prove to be a lethal threat to Greece’s forests this coming summer, with politicians keen not to offend voters. Authorities are particularly concerned about the elections. During the last run-up to the municipal poll in 1998, fires devastated the largest area of land in 20 years, and then, of course, there was the disastrous year of 2000. The general secretary of the Attica Region, M. Kyriakidis, told Kathimerini that in view of this fact, «preparations started a month ago, while the basic target for this year is to double the forces engaged in fire prevention and fire-fighting operations.» Already in Attica, work has started on compiling maps of forest areas at high risk; these highlight 25 locations that require special protection. Funding has been doubled, to 8.8 million euros, which will be given to the municipalities so that the requisite seasonal fire prevention workers on two-month contracts can be hired. The interministerial committee has also decided to double the number of seasonal firefighters to be hired by the Ministry of Agriculture to reinforce existing forest protection. These preparations are but one side of the coin, however. These – possibly adequate – preparations do not diminish the problems that arise from the fact that Greek forests are unmapped and lack a forest land register, as well as the fact that the necessary legislation to protect them has not been passed. Moreover, legislative amendments exist that actually legalize activities that encroach on forestland, such as the bill that changes the size of a property that may be built upon (which effectively legalizes illegal buildings). The Agriculture Ministry itself refers to «the clearing of land, reducing the size of forests,» «illegal occupation» of forestland, «uncontrolled logging, grazing in forests and air pollution which diminish the fertility of the soil» and, of course, the main threat to forests, fire.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.