Call to inform on land-grabbers

A top public administration official is asking citizens to be on the lookout for illegal construction sites cropping up in the forested areas destroyed in last month’s wildfires ahead of forthcoming parliamentary elections. «There is the risk of land-grabbing on large areas of state land during the campaign period,» said Leandros Rakintzis, general inspector for public administration, who is asking people to report any cases of construction in burned areas until aerial photography of these areas has been completed and forestry maps drawn up. «If this doesn’t happen, there will be arson attacks,» the general inspector warned, noting that the monitoring of state land is generally more relaxed during election campaigns. Rakintzis said he has also informed police of the heightened risk, asking them to step up patrols in northeastern Attica in particular. Attempts to draft forestry maps began 30 years ago but responsibility has been passed from the Agricultural Development Ministry to the Environment and Public Works Ministry, which, in turn, has assigned the job to the firm responsible for drawing up a national land register and to private surveyors. The lack of maps means that no one knows exactly what land is classified as forest or pasture or where construction is allowed. Meanwhile, there has been a rush on stores selling fire-extinguishing equipment in the areas hit by the fires. «When we opened our store on the Monday after the fires… there was a long line outside,» said Tassos Angelikas, who has a store in Aghios Stefanos, a suburb badly affected by the August blazes. «They wanted to buy fire hoses and to refill fire extinguishers,» he added. The market for fire-extinguishing systems has increasingly grown from sites where they are mandatory, such as factories and restaurants, to private homes. «Small fire extinguishers are not adequate to put out blazes of this kind,» said Dimitris Kollias, the owner of a fire-safety firm. «What is needed is extinguishers on wheels with a capacity of 25-50 liters.»