True extent of forest damage is revealed

True extent of forest damage is revealed

4 July 2007

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Fire burns 4,200 hectares onParnitha

Greece — A burnt sign welcomes visitors to the Mount Parnitha forest. Thesix-day blaze in the forest, seen as being crucial to Attica’s environment,was under control late yesterday, according to firefighters. Governmentofficials promised to keep the national park free of building development.

A fire that devastated Mount Parnitha has destroyed some 4,200 hectares offorest area, according to figures provided yesterday, as the government promisedto take steps that will keep developers off the razed land.

Initial data from Mount Parnitha forest authorities showed that 2,180hectares of fir tree-covered land was burnt, while another 2,040 hectares ofpine trees were scorched.

In a bid to allay concerns that developers will build in the area, thegovernment said aerial photos of the district will be widely published so thepublic can be better informed about the reforesting process.

Top ministry officials also said the government is determined to make surethe forest will regenerate.

“Wherever there was a forest, there will continue to be one. Not one inchwill be lost,” said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos after a Cabinetmeeting.

“The forest will be protected and will be regrown,” he added.

Other immediate steps include moving ahead with anti-flooding measures overthe next few months as the scorched forest will not be able to absorb rainfall.

The conservative government has come under criticism from politicalopposition and environmental groups for failing to prevent the fires fromspreading.

After burning for six days, firefighters managed only late yesterday topartially control the blaze on the mountain, located north of the capital.

Other steps aimed at protecting the country’s shrinking forests, are plansto almost triple the amount of space protected by the Mount Parnitha NationalPark to 11,000 hectares from 3,800 hectares currently.

The law extending the forest’s borders, to be introduced via a presidentialdecree, is aimed at implementing stricter control of the area.

Initial plans have been drawn up to help the trees grow back but expertswarned against introducing new plants to speed up the process that could alterthe natural balance on the mountain.


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