True extent of forest damage is revealed

A fire that devastated Mount Parnitha has destroyed some 4,200 hectares of forest area, according to figures provided yesterday, as the government promised to take steps that will keep developers off the razed land. Initial data from Mount Parnitha forest authorities showed that 2,180 hectares of fir tree-covered land was burnt, while another 2,040 hectares of pine trees were scorched. In a bid to allay concerns that developers will build in the area, the government said aerial photos of the district will be widely published so the public can be better informed about the reforesting process. Top ministry officials also said the government is determined to make sure the forest will regenerate. «Wherever there was a forest, there will continue to be one. Not one inch will be lost,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos after a Cabinet meeting. «The forest will be protected and will be regrown,» he added. Other immediate steps include moving ahead with anti-flooding measures over the next few months as the scorched forest will not be able to absorb rainfall. The conservative government has come under criticism from political opposition and environmental groups for failing to prevent the fires from spreading. After burning for six days, firefighters managed only late yesterday to partially control the blaze on the mountain, located north of the capital. Other steps aimed at protecting the country’s shrinking forests, are plans to almost triple the amount of space protected by the Mount Parnitha National Park to 11,000 hectares from 3,800 hectares currently. The law extending the forest’s borders, to be introduced via a presidential decree, is aimed at implementing stricter control of the area. Initial plans have been drawn up to help the trees grow back but experts warned against introducing new plants to speed up the process that could alter the natural balance on the mountain.

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