An annual crime

Let’s hope this year’s forest fires on Mt Pendeli do not claim any lives. The only hope we can nurture is that human lives will be saved, as it is certain that forests will be lost. This has been borne out by recent history – each year hundreds of hectares of forestland are burnt to ashes – and is virtually guaranteed by the state tolerance of mercenary arsonists. Where there was once forestland, countless new homes have sprung up. Beautiful slopes that once belonged to all are being privatized at a breathtaking rate. Certain cunning opportunists, with the collusion of the competent authorities, are cementing over the last swathes of green space to have adorned Attica. It is the same old story every year and we will see it again this year: scattered blazes, the mobilization of state rescue services, statements and vows by competent officials that the region will be reforested, but as soon as the public spotlight shifts to another subject, construction work begins. A walk through the charred remains of forestland suffices to belie state promises of reforestation – fenced-off expanses of burnt land and half-built structures are testimony to the ceaseless abuse of one of Attica’s few remaining forests. The problem is not restricted to the fact that some 18,000 hectares of forests have been ravaged over the past decade, nor the fact that certain individuals are stealing our common assets. The biggest problem is that competent officials (who are not without political backing) turn a blind eye to construction on burnt land – and this tolerance acts as a motive for further arson attacks. Essentially the state is an accomplice in this annual crime. The necessary laws are in place; the point is for them to be enforced. There is no need for long-term planning and promises. Simple acts would suffice. For example, has anyone checked the declaration of assets forms submitted annually by the state officials appointed to protect Pendeli? Following this year’s blazes, it would be advisable for a prosecutor to do just that.