ATHENS – After prohibiting building on burned lands after raging wildfires this summer, the New Democracy government is moving to allow agricultural use and even construction in some of Greece’s forests.
The Environment Ministry is drafting legislation for those purposes, said Kathimerini, indicating that it would be limited to mostly former fields that had been abandoned and became woodlands.
Some 690,000 hectares (1,705,027 acres) of what had been protected forest and woods would then be available for use although it wasn’t said what kind of restrictions or conditions would be put on construction, Greece noted for allowing and then legalizing unlawful building so as to bring in more revenues.
In Greece’s forest maps, afforested fields are a separate category of land and appear in the historical aerial photographs (taken in 1945 and 1960) as rural but in the newer ones are covered by forest or vegetation, the paper noted.
They cover 5.54 percent of the area in the forest maps. Current legislation designates these areas as forests, except in some cases where they can be used exclusively for agricultural cultivation.
The Environment Ministry has decided to effectively abolish this category, opening the door for their development and construction. There was no initial response from environmental groups who traditionally oppose that practice.
“Rural fields that were cultivated for decades, as evidenced by the aerial photographs of 1945, but were abandoned, mainly due to internal migration, and afforested cover about 690,000 hectares in total,” said Deputy Environment Minister Giorgos Amyras.
“With the legislation that we are preparing, in absolute harmony with the decisions of the Council of State, we aim to enable people to cultivate the land they have inherited,” he added.
He said that the aim is to motivate young farmers to use these plots of land with high-value crops, such as aromatic herbs and other plants but there was no word whether there would be also apartments, homes or other buildings allowed.