Grabbers eye Holargos land

About 100 hectares of land on Mount Hymettus, northeast of Athens, that was burned this summer is being persistently pursued by landgrabbers, who have been fencing it off or dumping building materials there, forest rangers told Kathimerini yesterday. The land is adjacent to the affluent northeastern suburbs of Holargos and Papagou and the forestry service in Pendeli, northern Athens, which is responsible for looking after the greenery on the mountain is fully stretched in its effort to protect the area. «We are trying to do the best we can with the personnel that we have at our disposal,» said Alexandros Rigas, who is in charge of the Pendeli forestry service. Earlier this week, Kathimerini witnessed a worker placing a fence around a small church, Aghia Eleousa, in the foothills of Hymettus in Holargos. When challenged, he said he had been ordered to fence off the area because it was private land. A couple of days later residents ripped down the fence. Rigas told Kathimerini that the land is public but «is being claimed by many people.» A large chunk of the 100 hectares that was burned in August had been handed by the Defense Ministry to an officers’ cooperative in the 1960s but a number of other private, as well as public, interests believe they own part of the land. Locals claim that the Athens Water Company and the Public Power Corporation, which legally own plots in the area in question, are constantly encroaching on the land around them. The Holargos cemetery has also been accused of expanding illegally but denies the claims. The mayor of Holargos, Dimitris Nikolaou, said that he plans to combat the landgrabbers by building an «ecological park.»