ATHENS – Reneging on vows to raze unlawful structures after the deadly July 2018 wildfires that showed they had blocked access to the sea, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government’s giving the go-ahead to legalize them was a “criminal sell-off,” the Greek chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said.
The group said the scheme would just allow more people to seize waterfront property and build on it without permits and further cut off access to the sea, as had happened at the village of Mati where many of the 100 people killed in the fires were as they tried to escape.
WWF Greece asked citizens to sign a petition which will be delivered to the Radical Left SYRIZA leader Tsipras in one week to protest the bill, which it called “scandalous as it allows the violation and destruction of Greek coasts and beaches.”
Earlier, it was reported that a draft bill sent to Parliament would give owners of unlawful buildings the right to use them for 40 years but not transfer ownership.
Instead of being forced to leave and having their buildings demolished, owners of unlawful structures in forested lands instead can get away with keeping them by paying a 200 euro ($227.65 fine), the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.
Previous governments have done the same so as not to lose voters although unlawful buildings were also blamed the deaths in floods in towns outside Athens where they blocked gullies and water run-offs and as the state wants to bring in money despite the environmental damage.
The unlawful structures and homes range from cottages to villas on the sea built wherever people seize land, including state properties, and are allowed to do so without consequence apart from paying fines or bribing officials.