Parnitha under guard

Anyone caught building illegally on the burnt land on Mount Parnitha in Attica will have their home immediately razed, the government said yesterday as it unveiled a 30-million-euro package to provide better protection for the forest that was ravaged by fire at the end of last month. «We are aiming to organize Parnitha exactly as a national park should be organized,» said Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias. «With observatories, roads, able personnel, adequate equipment, with all the means to confront fires or land-grabbers.» Just over 4,000 hectares of forestland is estimated to have been scorched by the fire. Souflias said that an amendment to the existing law would allow authorities to knock down any illegal buildings found in the burned area as well as any new structures that spring up in the future. Most of the money will be spent on employing more staff and obtaining better equipment to guard the forest. Souflias said more than 100 people will be given jobs in the Parnitha forest service and the body responsible for managing the national park. Visitors will be barred from entering the burned areas of Parnitha and patrols will be stepped up. Animals will also be prevented from grazing there. Aerial photographs of the area will be taken every six months to monitor progress. The minister said that the government will ask for the advice of academics and scientists from universities in Thessaloniki and Athens as to how best to ensure the regeneration of the burned forest. «This is a matter that affects us all,» said Souflias. «There has to be close cooperation from everybody so we can confront the problem and act based on this tight schedule we have drawn up.» The army is expected to complete taking pictures of the burned area in a week so that authorities have exact records of which parts of the forest will need help as well as protection from flooding. Souflias said that flood prevention work will begin next month and the effort to regenerate the forest will commence in November.

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