Mt Parnitha ready for the rains

Work to build anti-flood barriers on the slopes of Mount Parnitha, ravaged in a huge fire in June, is virtually complete, forest authorities said yesterday. «In a few days, we’ll be done,» said the president of the organization overseeing Mount Parnitha, Dimitris Spathis. Some 3,000 kilometers of trunks – from the trees burned in the blaze – have been laid out on the mountain’s slopes to protect residential areas beneath them from flooding when the first rains come. Despite the preparations, residents of nearby residential areas are awaiting the first heavy rainfall nervously. «That will be the first test, if the mountain handles that then we can relax,» a resident of Aspropyrgos told Kathimerini. Meanwhile, regrowth on the forest’s charred land is progressing well, environmentalists say. «The return of the vegetation has been spectacular,» said forestry expert Panayiotis Latsoudis, who has been monitoring the regeneration of Parnitha on a daily basis since the fire. The first sign of regrowth was the sprouting of wild asparagus a few weeks after the fire. Since then shrubs growing at low levels on the mountain have reached half a meter in height, Latsoudis said. Cyclamens and other hardy bulbs have resurfaced very quickly. «We’ve got a foothold now and things are improving steadily,» Latsoudis said. One unfortunate development in the Parnitha area is the killing, by illegal hunters, of more than 50 red deer, a protected species. According to environmentalists, illegal hunters have eluded arrest by seeking their prey at night and using silencers on their guns to avoid attracting the attention of forest rangers. The deer have become more vulnerable to hunters as their natural protection – the forest itself – has disappeared. In a bid to heighten public awareness about the protection forests need, but also to promote ecotourism, a trek is being organized this weekend in the Virgin Forest in western Rhodope, northern Greece. The 108-kilometer «trail» – crossing through pristine forestland accommodating several protected species – is being promoted «so people can understand the significance of protecting such an area,» organizers said.

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