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Conservationist Laments Loss of City’s “Green Lung,” Touts Prevention

Fire prevention
The loss of Athens’ “Green Lung,” or the forest north of the city, that once provided oxygen to the atmosphere, was preventable if enough attention had been given to fire prevention, according to a WWF conservationist. Credit: Apostolis Makris/Greek Reporter

A World Wildlife Fund conservationist named Kostas, who did not want his last name used, stated in an interview with Deutsche Welle that most of the funds used in the recent past for firefighting by Greece and all other Mediterranean countries should have been used for fire prevention.

He stated that the area that burned north of the capital city was “the green lung that remained” after recent development in the city and the fires that burned Mt. Parnitha approximately 15 years ago.”This was one of the remaining lands that we’re losing today,” he lamented.

He added that even after natural reforestation, the area “will take a good 15-20 years before it is in this shape again.”

“If you need to extinguish a fire, it’s already too late”

However, the conservationist is skeptical about deliberate reforestation programs, saying “this is the Mediterranean. Forests are adapted to fires, so most of it will be reforested naturally as long as (there is no development). If we start having houses popping up, or farmland popping up — as we have seen all around Greece and the Mediterranean in the past — that’s one of the reasons why we see a lot of arson. Then we will lose the forest.”

However, he said, “if we keep it as forest, nature will gradually do its job.”

Asked what can be done to prevent such scourges from terrorizing the nation again, Kosta replied “Fires always need to be prevented. Like we say, if you need to extinguish a fire, it’s already too late. Fires need to be prevented, not extinguished.

“And what we see in Greece and in all the Mediterranean countries in the past decades is a loss of knowledge, a loss of interest in fire prevention. Prevention is a very scientific process. it does not show off, so politicians don’t get any credit for it. We usually do not see it — because if it (works) you don’t see the results, you don’t see the fires.

“Almost impossible to extinguish” fires due to failures in fire prevention strategy

“So people are not investing in fire prevention. They would rather invest in planes or in fancy firefighting trucks. All of these are useful, but all of these are in addition to fire prevention because what we see when a fire reaches a certain size, especially with climate change, especially with the temperatures and the winds we are having, it’s almost impossible to extinguish.

“And you know, 200 km (124 miles) north of here in Evia, we have a huge fire that we cannot control exactly for that reason. So prevention is the key and most of the monies that Greece and other Mediterranean countries are devoting to forest fires should be going for prevention.”

No Windmills for Fire-ravaged Areas on Evia

In another fire-related development on Tuesday, Environmentalist Theodora Nantsou, the director of the World Wildlife Fund’s environmental policy, assured the Greek public on Tuesday that there are no plans to place wind turbines on the burned areas of the island of Evia.

Some have aired their opinions recently that the fires were started by people who have an interest in placing the windmills in areas that burned, pointing to a ruling from the CoC which appears to allow the installation of the turbines in land that has been cleared in this way.

However, Nantsou noted that this is not the case in reality, and as a matter of fact, installing such turbines in scorched areas is the best way to absolutely forestall such projects.

Attorney George Karavokyris posted a tweet on social media that was republished by Nantou, stating that “One does not need to burn the forest to install RES (on the contrary, fire was the safest way to prevent the project).

“Nor is the major interpretative bet of the legal framework – and of the decision of the CoC that goes beyond the literal interpretation – the private economic initiative, but the protection of the environment itself. This is the main concern and often the legal is the best condition for us to discuss accurately and politically”.

Nantsou shared the disturbing post on Twitter showing the moment that the Attica fire started and how it developed over the course of several days.



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