Unprecedented scale of environmental destruction

«Every environmental crisis, whether great or small, shows there is a pressing need to restructure the national system of environmental management and protection,» said Theodota Nantsou, head of environmental policy for WWF Hellas. «The unprecedented scale of the environmental destruction this past summer, combined with the huge humanitarian and social dimension of the catastrophe, has justifiably led to a general public outcry. Moreover, for perhaps the first time it has led the country’s leaders to realize that they are justifying what is basically unjustifiable,» she added. «We cannot forget that just before the fires, an amendment to postpone the demolition of illegally built houses in forests and an attempt to amend Article 24 of the Constitution, were a clear attack on our national forests. Nevertheless, during the recent election campaign, the subject of the environment remained low on the agenda, as it always had been. Despite some attempts by the Environment and Public Works Ministry and other relevant ministries to cover lost ground, we can no longer turn a blind eye to what is a difficult situation.» Nantsou referred to what she called «an attack on nature» from the priority for economic growth and development. «First of all, there was the special zoning framework for tourism, which is scheduled for discussion, and the attempt to downgrade Article 24 of the Constitution, along with an unacceptable delay in completing the land register and forestry register. These are clear signs that the significant remnants of natural resources and areas will pay for the country’s fiscal chaos,» she added. No coordination «The Environment and Public Works Ministry continues to refuse to provide any information regarding the distribution of public funds it is supposed to be making available for environmental protection through the Program for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development (ETERPS), nor regarding the imposition of fines for crimes related to the environment. Until last year, the ministry’s political leadership fought hard to cut significant funds from the Third Community Support Framework earmarked for protected areas and threatened species,» she added. «Meanwhile the lack of coordination between services and ministries, insufficient staff, lack of structures and infrastructures, not to mention corruption, show that Greece is unable in practice to deal with the accumulated environmental problems,» concluded Nantsou.