Wildfire recovery plan blasted

Wildfire recovery plan blasted

7 December 2007

published by www.ekathimerini.com     

Greece — Attempts by authorities to restore parts of Greece ravaged in the summer’s catastrophic forest fires have been spasmodic and uncoordinated, according to the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE), an association of civil engineers and other professionals that advises the government.

Initiatives to rebuild burnt homes, erect flood barriers and restore the local economy have been carried out without any overall plan or effective communication between various authorities and departments, TEE spokespeople said yesterday.

An “observatory” set up by TEE in association with lawyers and academics criticized the Environment Ministry for failing to prepare a comprehensive restoration plan. Anti-flood works failed to take into account the impact of climate change, experts said. The Agriculture Ministry was also slammed for “inadequate” efforts to aid local farmers.

“The destruction can become a challenge for improving sustainable development in the area,” said Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) deputy Mina Xirotiri, the observatory’s coordinator.

Lack of coordination was also the reason August’s forest fires caused such extensive damage, firefighters from Canada told people attending a conference in Athens.

Greece must establish a separate firefighting unit for forests if it wants to tackle summer blazes, Brian Simpson of British Columbia’s forest firefighting unit told the event organized by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Fighting forest fires demands a “completely different” approach than standard firefighting, Simpson said.

Experts also proposed the training of residents living near forestland, particularly in remote areas, in rudimentary firefighting tactics. The participation of the locals is “the golden rule for prevention,” experts said.

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