Plan for fire-stricken areas

The government yesterday unveiled a 650-million-euro plan aimed at helping the rehabilitation of areas ravaged by last summer’s fires, which includes measures to replant burn areas and prevent erosion. The plan, prepared by some 160 scientists at universities in Athens and Thessaloniki, aims to restore the natural habitat and help people in rural areas who incurred financial losses. The cost will be covered by the government and European Union programs. Measures to prevent erosion, such as leaving burnt trees in place for two years, and the replanting of burnt areas relate to seven prefectures – Arcadia, Achaia, Ileia, Corinth, Laconia and Messinia in southern Greece and the island of Evia. «Our objective was and is to raise the standard of living (of victims) as quickly as possible to the same or even better level than before the catastrophe,» said Agricultural Development Minister Alexandros Kontos. Over 147,000 hectares of forestland and 24,000 hectares of olive groves were destroyed, along with tens of thousands of farm animals, in fires that killed over 60 people. And more than 223,000 hectares still remain at serious risk of erosion, according to the report, which was unveiled even as severe floods hit parts of Greece over the weekend, including some of the fire-stricken areas of the Peloponnese. Among the proposals put forward by the experts is the placement of the region’s unemployed in state programs to reforest burnt land and build anti-flood barriers. Local economies are being hit hard by the fires. The study said that lower farming activity will result in a drop in production for 110 dairy producers and 177 olive oil production plants. In a related development, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said yesterday that licenses to repair hundreds of damaged or destroyed houses would be issued within the next two months, with financial aid to be disbursed in three installments.