Cooperatives eyeing Pendeli

As a prosecutor charged on Saturday a 57-year-old man with starting last week’s destructive forest fire on Mount Pendeli, it emerged that several cooperatives have been vying to build on the slopes of the charred mountain, north of Athens. The unidentified man who has been linked to the Mount Pendeli blaze has denied charges of arson and endangering lives, claiming to have been in a cafe on Thursday morning when four blazes broke out in different locations on the mountain. The suspect’s son, a firefighter, was killed earlier this year while trying to extinguish a factory blaze, according to police. The 57-year-old is due to appear before an investigating magistrate in the next few days. Meanwhile, Kathimerini has discovered that at least 28 labor and social cooperatives, and even church groups, have been seeking to build on the slopes of Mount Pendeli, where construction has mushroomed since a massive fire in 1995. The area of Pendeli is home to some 20,000 hectares of land regarded as prime real estate worth millions of euros to would-be developers. The 28 cooperatives, named in yesterday’s Kathimerini, are allegedly seeking to build on some 2,500 hectares of land destroyed in the 1995 blaze. The cooperatives in question include groups of workers such as the Bank of Greece Workers’ Association and the Association of Workers and Insured Citizens of the Social Security Foundation (IKA). A cooperative of journalists is also said to be eyeing the area. And Pendeli’s local monastery is claiming some 8,000 hectares of land on the mountain. The 28 cooperatives also include several of some 128 construction cooperatives that appear to be active in Attica alone. «The whole of Pendeli would not be enough to fulfill the demands of those seeking to build here,» Pendeli forest ranger Alexandros Rigas had told Kathimerini about a month ago in the wake of the blazes on mounts Parnitha and Hymettus. According to experts, the problem is that burnt forestland is not immediately scheduled for reforestation after fires, allowing developers to move in.