Lack of funds exposes forests

Forestry authorities around the country have virtually no money for fire prevention this year and some are still owed state funding from last year, making them more dependent than ever on volunteers. The organization responsible for managing and protecting Mount Parnitha, north of Athens, is one of several to have empty coffers this year, though it has received a series of cash injections from the state and private donors since June 2007 when a massive forest fire razed a huge chunk of the national park. But the organization was bolstered yesterday by the acquisition of a new electronic early warning system and 12 patrol vehicles – a donation from the Marfin Investment Group. The system comprises two observation stations which transmit images of the mountain in real time so that any sign of fire or suspicious activities can be detected immediately. Digital maps will be used to trace the location of the patrol vehicles and the information forwarded to the local fire service to help it plan a faster response. A spokesperson for the forestry authority responsible for Mount Parnitha, Giorgos Zareifis, suggested to Kathimerini that this system will not be adequate to protect the national park. «Last year we had funding to maintain the roads but this year the cleanup hasn’t even begun. Forestry authorities have not received even one euro from the Environment Ministry this year,» Zareifis said. Asked to comment, a spokesperson for the ministry said that 2 million euros had been released to certain forestry authorities, while another 1.8 million euros was still awaiting approval by the Finance Ministry.