Forests, too

In recent decades, Greece has experienced an ecological disaster on all levels. The postwar model of development led to repeated abuse of the environment. The most fundamental principles regarding the protection of natural resources were violated. We are all experiencing the dramatic consequences of these actions but correctional measures after the fact are either practically impossible or too expensive. For the environmental choices made in the first postwar decades, the poor excuse given was that the country had been destroyed by WWII and the civil war, and that widespread poverty had created increased pressure for housing. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. Both the State and society have learned a great deal from their mistakes and have an obligation not to repeat them, especially since there is no longer any excuse. To be fair, past experience has, in some cases, prompted the State to go to the other extreme, particularly regarding the classification of forests. However, this should by no means be used as an excuse to open the way for further ecological disasters. On the contrary, the State should have modernized forestry legislation years ago; it should have determined land use and properly examined all the outstanding issues and demands from housing cooperatives. Unfortunately, the Simitis government has delayed clarifying the situation, leaving margins for negotiations. The reform of the relevant provision in the Constitution should have set in motion the reform process, but this has not happened, either due to the lack of political courage, or because there was a chance to exploit it in the election campaign. Although the details of the draft law on forests are not yet known, everything points in this direction. The Simitis government appears determined to sacrifice even such vital issues to its campaign expediencies. The legalization of illegally built homes is a worrying indication of its intentions. There is no doubt that all these years strict laws were not able to prevent the destructive activities of organized interests, mainly due to widespread corruption and the lack of proper monitoring mechanisms. From the political and moral point of view, however, it is far worse if ecological disasters are the direct result of decisions by the State itself, even more so when these decisions are not due to any mistaken perception of the issue, but to election campaign cynicism.