Containers slated for burnt land

Illegally built residences in the charred forests of Attica, Viotia and Evia look set to be replaced by container homes, following a decision by the Ministry of Environment and Public Works. According to the decision, victims of forest fires are entitled to claim for the placement of a prefabricated home in place of a residence that was destroyed, even if the latter had been built illegally in a prohibited zone. The decision is likely to raise questions concerning its legality and expedience, since it could be interpreted as indirectly supporting unlawful practices that contribute to the destruction of forests. In addition, the decision highlights the gap between the words and deeds of the ministry, which had in the past introduced a legislative amendment speeding up procedures for the demolition of homes illegally constructed on burnt forestland. The ministry sent its decision to municipalities and communities in fire-stricken areas one week ago and a copy was forwarded to the corresponding town planning departments. Although the decision stipulates the supporting documents that need to be submitted by applicants, it does not require them to prove that the residence to be replaced by the container home had been legally built in an area not designated as forestland or scheduled for reforestation. In other words, the decision makes no distinction between fire victims who had constructed homes in accordance with the law and those who had built illegally on forestland. Nor does the decision clarify whether the container homes will subsequently be connected to the national electricity network managed by the Public Power Corporation. Ministry officials stress that all fire victims will be eligible for the container homes but that their placement will be temporary, for a period of two years. However, there is no reference to such a time limit in the ministry’s decision. «This decision has no relation with the concept of legality and simply consolidates arbitrariness,» Ioannis Polyzos, vice rector of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) told Kathimerini. Polyzos, who is also a professor in NTUA’s school of architecture, added that «by placing container homes on burnt forestland, you are indirectly recognizing illegal construction and encroachment in forests. It is a sad development.»

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