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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-09

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Plans for Parnitha reforestation announced
  • [02] Suburban railway reaches Kiato
  • [03] Police dismantles large ring of people traffickers

  • [01] Plans for Parnitha reforestation announced

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Monday announced a series of measures of the speedy and immediate reforestation of the forest burned on Mount Parnitha and the preservation of the National Park's animal and bird life. In addition to the measures, the minister made it clear that the government would not tolerate any attempts to encroach on the burnt areas, either for construction or for use as grazing, and would crack down hard on offenders.

    "This is a most serious case for Attica and it must be understood in every way that Parnitha does not lend itself to this sort of activity," Souflias stressed.

    He made the announcements after a meeting held on Monday morning with Agriculture Development Minister Evangelos Bassiakos, local government and regional authority officials, the Parnitha chief forest warden, representatives of the Parnitha National Park management body, the Army's Geographical Service and a specialist expert from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA).

    According to the minister, the government's plan for Parnitha will unfold on a particularly tight schedule in order to ensure a swift recovery for Attica and avoid nasty surprises over the winter, starting with the designation of the burnt expanses as land destined for reforestation by next month.

    He said this would open the way for carrying out works to protect against flooding and soil erosion, while the reforestation work will begin in the first days of November. In addition, extra staff will be hired in order to set up watches within the forest, which will be manned by staff from the forest service and volunteers, with the total budget of the project is estimated to be in the region of 30 million euros that will come from the coffers of the environment ministry.

    As part of the government's "race" to create a legal framework for the protection of Parnitha's forest, there will for the first time be special legislative measures for dealing with those that attempt to build in the areas that were burnt, while animal breeders that lead their flocks to areas pegged for reforestation will be barred from receiving European Union subsidies and funding.

    Those who try to build on the land that had been declared due for reforestation, whether within or outside the boundaries of the National Park, will be prosecuted under the law on structurally unsound and dangerous buildings, where demolition orders are carried out immediately by the forestry service and cannot be stayed or suspended.

    The minister also noted that announcing a specific schedule for the work in advance was a "risk" for the government, which might well need more time given the mountain's "complex morphology" but stressed that it was necessary.

    "The bodies involved must be bound to some form of time commitment and the citizens must be informed," he said.

    Outlining this schedule, Souflias said this would start with the declaration of the areas burnt as land due for reforestation within a month, since the Army's Geographical Service had already completed taking aerial photographs of the area, which would form the basis of the reforestation studies. At the same time, property registration will begin as a priority in all local authorities that contain or neighbour on areas of burnt forest on Parnitha.

    Protection against flooding and erosion will be carried out chiefly through the construction of barriers using logs and tree branches and, where necessary, stone walls. Souflias announced that the Parnitha forest department had already starting preparing a logging chart, which would be ready in one week for the fir forest, while for the rest of the mountain's flora, it would be ready in 15 days. Though it won't be fully completed until the start of August, the actual work might begin earlier as sections of the study are submitted.

    The minister said that the appropriate bodies have contacted forestry cooperatives to set up wooden barriers, starting with the forest's larger ravines as a priority, while the work will be supervised by the Attica Reforestation Directorate and the Parnitha National Park management service. The work is scheduled to begin within 15 days so that it can be completed by the end of September.

    Regarding the actual reforestation itself, a plan for the work includes the completion in 10 days of a study of the terrain and the preparation of reforestation studies by the end of September so that work can begin in November

    In order to assist the process of reforestation and protect the burnt areas, access to these on foot or for vehicles will be restricted, especially in the Molas region, with artificial barriers, while the forest roads Retsinada-Paleohori and Kastriza-Gefyra Mavrorematos will be closed to traffic at all times.

    In charge of protecting the forest's remaining wildlife and of monitoring its population is the Parnitha Forest service and the veterinary service, while the forest will be guarded through the hiring of additional seasonal staff with eight-month contracts but also of permanent staff that will be selected without going through the Supreme Council for Staff Selection (ASEP).

    "We can neither blackmail nor violate nature. All the experts recommend that, up to 800 metres, we let the natural regeneration of the plant life function and that is what we will do. We will also seek the opinions of Thessaloniki University professors and of the NTUA, as well as those of non-governmental organisations that are knowledgeable on the subject and those of the public. We need everyone's help, given that any action must be carried out methodically and in an organised way so as not to cause further damage. The terrain on Parnitha has a peculiar morphology and we must do the best we can within the proper time," Souflias said.

    Protest over Parnitha fire outside Parliament

    Hundreds of people joined a protest over the destruction of Mount Parnitha's forest outside Parliament on Sunday in an impressive spontaneous response to an appeal organised by an unnamed group of young people over the Internet. The call, picked up by the media, inspired a strong response that came one day before the government announces measures for Parnitha's reforestation.

    The call for a protest "without sponsoring", as they said in their messages through the Internet, also activated the sensitivity of environmental organisations, municipal initiatives and hundreds of ordinary people who turned up for the "blind date" at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at 7 in the evening.

    People symbolically deposited a branch from "a tree that was saved" on Mount Parnitha and emptied sacks full of charred pinecones and pineneedles before the monument.

    Shouting slogans in protest at the mortal blow to Attica's last remaining forest, the crowd stayed in the area for quite a long time, blocking traffic and then dispersed peacefully.

    Caption: Hundreds of protestors gathered outside Parliament in a protest over the burning of the forest on Mount Parnitha on Sunday, 8 July 2007. ANA/MPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI

    [02] Suburban railway reaches Kiato

    The new Proastiakos suburban railway line to Kiato in the prefecture of Corinth -- in the Peloponnese, southern Greece -- was inaugurated on Monday, with the ceremony attended by Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis. The new 21km-long double railway line features 7 bridges and 17 crossings, while trains will travel with a maximum speed of 200 km/hour. Liapis commented that the Proastiakos Railway now services 142 routes and will be used by more than 20,000 passengers daily, adding that ticket fares will be low in order to be competitive. He also said that the drafting of the Proastiakos Railway extension to Lavrio will soon be completed, stressing that the modernisation of the Greek railways is a priority of the transport and communications ministry. Responding to questions about when elections will be held, he stated that we have entered the final stretch, but no election date has been set. The ruling New Democracy party will be the winner in the coming elections, being the only reliable, responsible political force, he added. Caption: People waiting on the platform at Kiato station to board the newly-inaugurated Proastiakos suburban railway line service from Kiato to Athens on Monday, 9 July 2007. ANA/MPA/Vassilis Psomas.

    [03] Police dismantles large ring of people traffickers

    The Department Against Trafficking in People and Prosecution of Organised Crime of the Attica police on Monday said it had succeeded in dismantling one of the largest and best organised rings in the people-trafficking and sex trade after a two-month investigation that culminated in a huge police operation on Sunday.

    Police carried out simultaneous raids on 34 different locations in Athens that were supervised by Appeals Public Prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos and the head of Athens First-Instance Court public prosecutors' Panagiotis Poulios.

    They arrested 11 suspected members of the ring, eight men and three women of different nationalities that included Greeks, Moldavians, Kazakhs and Ukrainians, and further 62 men and women from Greece, Albania, Poland, Armenia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Nigeria and Venezuela that are accused of facilitating vice in others and prostitution.

    The 62 arrests were carried out in bars, strip shows and similar establishments, while police also released three women from the Ukraine that were being held against their will and forced into prostitution through use of violence.

    The raids also revealed a phone centre operated by the gang in a Patission apartment equipped with 36 phone lines, where 12 women per shift arranged appointments for sexual services with clients.

    Through collaboration with Interpol, Europol and police links between Greece and other countries, a further two people were arrested in the Ukraine and another seven members of the gang are wanted, including five Greeks, one Russian and one Moldavian.

    Greek Police launched their investigation two months earlier based on information received from Ukrainian authorities, who armed them with the alias and telephone number of a man that had brought two young women from the Ukraine to Attica and forced them to work as prostitutes.

    During the two months of the investigation, police discovered that members of the ring had sent money orders to the tune of 200,000 euros to eastern countries where the gangās accomplices were based and where the women originated.

    Also informed about the investigation and operation were the National Centre for Social Solidarity and non-governmental organisations, which will undertake the treatment and support of the three women released and other victims of the gang's criminal activity.

    A total of 152 people were detained for questioning during Sunday's raids, while those placed under arrest are to appear before a public prosecutor on Monday.

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