Maps to delineate, protect forests

The Environment Ministry yesterday presented the key provisions of an ambitious draft bill that aims to curb illegal construction on forestland by drawing up a comprehensive map delineating the boundaries of the country’s forests and thus averting would-be arsonists and land-grabbers. The proposed scheme – a complicated initiative proposed by successive governments over the years – is to be released for public consultation for a week before being submitted to Parliament. The process of drawing up forest maps will be based on the comparison of aerial photographs of forestland dating to the 1960s with recent images. Regional administrations and forestry authorities will be responsible for drafting the map for their area, sources said. Once the maps are compiled, regional and local authorities will be obliged to display them in public. Electronic versions of the maps will also be uploaded onto the websites of the Environment Ministry, regional authorities and Ktimatologio, the state company responsible for drawing up Greece’s land register. The next stage will be the processing of any objections to the maps as they stand. Landowners and local authorities will have the opportunity to submit their objections regarding the accuracy of forest borders but will be obliged to pay a fee for this right. It remained unclear yesterday what the charge would be. There will be a 45-day limit for submitting objections, each of which will then be analyzed by a special committee of experts over a four-month period. According to the plan, the forest maps will then be amended and the process of shaping a national forest «charter» will gather pace. In February, the ministry heralded a scheme to reforest some 10,000 hectares of burnt woodland on the outskirts of Attica. Three months before that, then newly elected Environment Minister Tina Birbili had unveiled draft legislation according to which any areas of forestland ravaged by fire will be immediately included in a forest map of the respective region.

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