Environmental groups in Greece are urging officials to demonstrate the political will and courage to change decades-long illegal practices and to bring those responsible for the “deadliest fires in Greek history” to justice.
The groups – Arcturos, Archelon, Mediterranean SOS Network, Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, Society for the Protection of Prespa, Callisto, Ecological Recycling Society, Greenpeace, Medasett and WWF Greece – said in a letter that the tragic loss of dozens of lives – current toll at 92 – and missing in the July 23 fires is evidence of “the absolute inadequacy and ineffectiveness of the current system of forest protection”.
Citing recent National Observatory of Athens studies, the groups note that it is estimated that between 2021 and 2100 the number of very hot days in Greece are expected to increase by 50 percent to 100 percent leading inevitably to the increase in the risk of fire by an additional 30 days per year.
In view of this reality, the groups are calling for immediate actions which include:
-revising the current forest protection and civil protection plans
-focusing on prevention with the collaboration of relevant authorities
-preparing forest fire prevention plans on a local level as well as organizing open workshops for the public
-drawing up municipal evacuation plans which include setting escape routes, meeting areas and methods of evacuation as well as timely instruction of all residents in these areas
-ensuring the timely allocation of funds to the forestry service and local authorities ahead of the fire season (no later than March) each year
-moving ahead with the full implementation of Law 4249/2014 on the reform of civil protection and the complete integration of thousands of volunteer forest firefighters
-introducing in the upcoming school year mandatory drills for protection in case of fire and floods.