Nature to heal Parnitha

The large swath of Mount Parnitha’s forest that was burnt in wildfires in June should be allowed at least three years to regenerate itself before authorities attempt to plant new trees, the environmentalist group WWF Greece said yesterday. More than 4,000 hectares of pine- and fir-covered land was scorched in the blaze and WWF presented a series of measures that it believes will help the national park north of Athens begin to recover. The group recommended that no new trees should be planted on a mass scale in the forest until the fall of 2010. WWF said that small zones of the charred forest could be used for test plantings if needed. The environmentalists said that this would give nature three germination periods to begin the process of healing the damage done by the fire. Authorities will have to reassess the situation in 2010 and perhaps embark upon a more widespread replanting program. WWF approved of the flood prevention work being carried out on the mountain at the moment. It involves burned trunks being cut down and bound together to act as flood barriers and is also designed to stop the soil from being swept away by heavy rain. The group proposed that the government take the opportunity to knock down all the buildings in the forest, including sports training facilities, and to remove overhead electrical and telephone cables from the area because they are fire hazards. It is thought that one of the reasons the fire spread so quickly on Mount Parnitha is that authorities wanted to avoid dropping water on electricity pylons because they feared this would cause a blackout. The cause of the fire is still not known but arson is suspected. A recent study conducted by the fire service showed that there were almost 60,000 forest fires between 2000 and 2004. Investigations were carried out into 8,380 of these blazes and statistics indicate that arsonists caused almost 20 percent of them. Almost a third of the fires were started by mistake and the cause of almost 38 percent of the blazes was unknown.