Greece in the Grip of Worst Forest FiresATHENS, Greece - WWF today urged the Greek Government to take immediate action to put out the forest fires raging in Taygetos in the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.
The Taygetos forests, one of the 100 WWF European forest hotspots in need of special conservation attention, have been ablaze for the last three days. Taygetos is the richest Greek forest in terms of biodiversity and represents the most southern distribution point of black pine and fir forests within Europe. Over 160 Greek endemic plant species can be found there, 21 of which grow exclusively on Taygetos. Moreover, 36 species of fauna in the area are listed as internationally rare or endangered.
"Already over 100.000 hectares of forest are reported to have been engulfed by fires during this summer throughout Greece," said Dr. Aristotelis Papageorgiou, forest officer at WWF Greece. "More damage is feared before the season is over because of strong summer winds and limited fire-fighting capabilities. Arsonists, wanting to clear land for settlement and development, are the direct cause."
WWF had warned the Greek government of the forest fires which have now equalled the all-time record of the year 1988.
"The Greek government must take immediate action to stop the fires from spreading," said Dr. Papageorgiou. "Beyond that, it must put its house in order by implementing an effective environmental policy for forest conservation."
WWF urges the Greek government to take action to:
- Formulate and implement an integrated forest policy within which forest fires will comprise a central component;
- Establish a special Forest Fire Service in accordance with a proposal recently submmitted by the Greek Parliament;
- Clarify land tenure rights by establishing adequate forest tenure maps;
- Increase the allocation of funds and personnel to the Forest Service;
- Improve environmental education and public awareness on associated issues.
The hundreds of forest fires that have been set throughout the Greek countryside over the last month are the most direct and painful evidence of the lack of an effective environmental policy, said WWF. If Greece wants to protect its forest heritage, the action plan put forward by WWF Greece must be taken seriously.
Aristoteles Papageorgiou, email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
or Alexandra Chaini, email: email@example.com;
tel for both : +30 1 331 4893, fax +30 1 324 7578