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Greek national park fire exposes policy flaws - WWF

A canadair firefighting plane drops water at the wildfire approaching homes and hotels at Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022. Residents were evacuated as the wilfir
A canadair firefighting plane drops water at the wildfire approaching homes and hotels at Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022. Residents were evacuated as the wilfire threatened properties. (Photo: AFP)
ATHENS — A week-long fire ravaging one of Greece’s top parks has starkly exposed flaws in the country’s environmental management, the local branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said Thursday.اضافة اعلان

“The fire shows a series of flaws in (Greece’s) fire prevention system,” Panagiota Marangou, head of environmental protection programs at WWF Greece, told reporters.

WWF said the fire at Dadia National Park in northeastern Greece, which broke out last Thursday, is believed to have burned through 3,400 hectares (8,400 acres) of pine and oak forest. 

Dadia is one of the most important protected areas in Europe, offers ideal habitat for rare birds, and is home to the only breeding population of black vultures in the Balkans. 

It hosts three of Europe’s four vulture species- the black vulture, the griffon vulture, and the Egyptian vulture- and 36 of Europe’s 38 species of raptors.

Its varied habitats also support 104 butterfly species, 13 amphibian species, 29 reptile species, and about 65 mammal species, 24 of which are bats.

But while being one of Greece’s best-protected parks “on paper” in terms of its legal framework, Dadia had no dedicated firefighting force, Marangou said.

“It’s evident that changes will be required,” she said.

Greece’s environment ministry said it had spent half a million euros ($506,000) this year to build fire breaks and maintain roads at Dadia.

Another 72 million euros was spent on similar fire prevention projects around the country ongoing since May, it said.

WWF, which has been involved at Dadia for the past 30 years, acknowledged Thursday that some improvements had been made in funding and coordination.

But it insisted that shortages and poor planning severely impede firefighting results.

“There is no common fire prevention plan. (Local councils, the fire department, and the forestry service) each has their own,” noted Elias Tziritis, WWF’s forest fire coordinator.

And the forestry department supervising Dadia, which covers 428 square kilometers (165 square miles), has just three foresters, said WWF’s forest management officer Nicos Georgiadis. 

Environment groups have also criticized Greece’s conservative government for legislation allowing excessive tourism and industrial activities in and near protected areas.

On Thursday, the prime minister’s office said it was withdrawing a new batch of environmental legislation that has caused controversy.

The now-shelved draft law would have permitted additional activities in protected areas, including the construction of roads and electricity storage facilities. 

The European court of justice 2020 ruled that Greece had failed to adequately protect biodiversity by establishing conservation objectives and measures for its Natura 2000 network.


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