NEWS

The reforestation season ends in Attica and at ancient sites

March is customarily the tail end of the planting season – the latest time of the year that plants can be expected to get enough moisture from the soil to establish themselves in their new environment before being subjected to the stress of dry weather and high temperatures. The reforestation of the mountains around Athens has also come to a seasonal end. The foreign community of Athens has been doing its bit with a tree-planting event on the hills of Pendeli two weeks ago by an estimated 200 volunteers including US Embassy marines, diplomats and members of the American community. Pendeli is one of the three mountains in Athens – the other two are Hymettus and Parnitha, which were devastated by fires last summer. The Pendeli tree-planting was jointly organized by the local governments of Nea Pendeli, Kifissia and Melissia, by the Greek-American organization Plant Your Roots in Greece and by the journalism-led environment movement Reforestation Now! Plant Your Roots in Greece is also behind several other tree-planting events at archaeological sites in Sounion, Delphi, Ancient Olympia and Dion. The organization has held 18 such campaigns in Greece since 1999. The latest, in Dion, was overseen by the site’s director of excavations, Professor Dimitris Pantermalis, with the expert help of Thessaloniki’s Friends of Greenery, whose members planned the reforestation. Their leader, Professor Theoharis Zangas, said the area included a very important wetland with rare flora and fauna, some of which are threatened with extinction. Several of the species have been there since antiquity. «Only endemic species should be planted at archaeological sites,» said Zangas. «The results will be noticeable in about four or five years’ time.» Speaking to local television crews at the Pendeli planting, US Press Attache Carol Kalin said that American firefighting and reforestation experts had visited Greece two weeks previously for talks with Greek government officials and to see the worst fire-afflicted areas of the country. She said they paid particular attention to the region of Ancient Olympia in the Peloponnese, due to the large-scale reforestation effort under way there in view of the March 25 torch-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympic Games. The next tree-planting will be at the ancient site of Vergina, where the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, was found. The reforestation event on Sunday led to the planting of another 2,500 sapling pine trees. Along with similar planting events in December and January, it brought the total this winter to about 11,000 small trees on Mt Pendeli alone. Of course, that is still a small fraction of the 950 hectares or tens of thousands of full-grown trees destroyed in August. For the next six months, local government authorities and volunteer organizations will concentrate on the maintenance and watering of the newly planted trees. Reforestation is not allowed henceforth due to the forthcoming warmer weather. It will begin again only after the first rainfalls in October or November. Events – Tree-planting in Kallitechnoupolis, Attica, opposite the Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, organized by the Ministry for Agricultural Development and Food. About 30 hectares is to be planted with about 15,000 saplings, mostly Aleppo pines, as well as cypresses and other species, such as carob, Judas trees and oleanders. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. – This Sunday, March 16, a group of volunteers is holding a cleanup of Schinias beach and as much of the forest as possible, organized by the Foreigners’ Club of Nea Makri, Marathon, Rafina and Northeastern Attica, HELADA (the Hellenic-American Democratic Association), MIAFYSI, Navigator Consulting Group Ltd, and the Princeton Club of Greece. Schinias meeting point at the Glaros taverna on the beach at 10.15 a.m. Register at [email protected]