The reforestation of Attica’s slopes

Maintenance will be the focus of the latest in a series of efforts to restore forests destroyed by some of the most devastating wildfires in recent years in Greece. Beginning Sunday on Mt Pendeli, the drive is being spearheaded by a group of «pro-green» businessmen, international environmentalists, volunteers and foreign embassy officials who have joined forces with local and state services. The local municipalities have committed themselves to watering the plantings from April to October for the next two to three years, so that the effort does not go to waste. The initiative was taken by a new organization called Independent Reforestation Movement – Reforestation Now! comprising a number of historians, firefighters, environmentalists, local government officials and Greek and foreign journalists, with the approval of the government’s Forestry Department. Among the leaders of the initiative is Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the London-based Greek-Cypriot founder and chairman of easyGroup, which among others includes easyJet and easyHotels. «A lot of help has been forthcoming for the worst-hit parts of Greece and the restoration of homes and villages seems to be progressing well,» said Sir Stelios after a visit to the burnt-out areas and the former marble quarries of Pendeli. «But I believe the time has come to pay attention to Mount Pendeli because of its significance for the environmental needs of Athenians and for its contribution to global cultural heritage. And if this project goes well, we can then proceed with other areas of Athens and Greece in general.» Sir Stelios concluded: «I am delighted that I can be of some help in this worthwhile effort. I hope that the time I will devote to this project, as well as some initial financial support that I have pledged, will act as a catalyst to encourage others to help.» The most recent addition to the campaign is Plant Your Roots in Greece, a US and Athens-based organization which operates under the auspices of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad and the Hellenic American National Council. The organization has been involved in reforestation projects throughout Greece since 1999. «Our priority is to fund the reforestation of the areas devastated by fires in Greece,» says Theodore Spyropoulos, coordinator of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad / USA. The first phase of reforestation, with the planting of thousands of young pine trees by Greek and foreign volunteers, starts on the slopes of Mount Pendeli this Sunday. Deputy Minister for Agricultural Development Costas Kiltidis will be planting trees himself along with Sir Stelios, with senior British Embassy officials, American representatives of Plant Your Roots in Greece, local mayors and hundreds of volunteers. Journalist Paul Anastasi, who is the coordinator for the Independent Reforestation Movement, said that unlike some reforestation efforts that ended with the planting of the trees (of which half died subsequently through lack of the necessary follow-up until they had become established), Sunday’s work would not being going to waste. «The local municipalities (Pendeli, Kifissia, Melissia) have committed themselves to watering the trees once a week from April to October for the next two to three years, and one of our main goals is to provide water trucks for that purpose,» Anastasi told Kathimerini English Edition. As for erosion on the slopes, he said the affected area had been protected by damming before the rains began. «The best possible was done,» he said. At Kokkinaras Hill on the Pendeli-Kefalari borders (end of Xenia Street in Kefalari) on Sunday at 9.30 a.m. Independent Reforestation Movement, tel 210.804.4071.