Environmentalists say Greece disregarded climate change

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Environmentalists have criticised the Greek authorities for disregarding climate change, while major wildfires are ravaging the country and threatening the outskirts of the country’s capital, Greek and international media reported.

Greek firefighters are fighting the country’s worst wildfires since 2007, as strong winds fan flames on the outskirts of Athens, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people and destroying forested areas. The authorities declared a state of emergency on Saturday (22 August). Five firefighting aircraft have arrived in Greece from Italy, France and Cyprus to help control the situation after an appeal from Greek authorities, who fear the fire might surge further into the ancient capital. 

Authorities must intensify their efforts to curb climate change as heat waves and drier conditions created by the phenomenon in Greece and other Mediterranean countries are leading to larger and more uncontrollable forest fires, a spokesperson for Greenpeace told the Greek daily Kathimerini on 24 August. 

“Apart from all the other repercussions of climate change, we have the larger and fiercer blazes which further fuel global warming,” said Natalia Tsigaridou, referring to the findings of a report compiled by Greenpeace’s office in Spain. The Iberian country has also been devastated by wildfires in recent years. 

According to Miguel Soto, a Greenpeace Spain campaigner, “forest fires are becoming more intense and out of control in Spain and across Southern Europe”. Soto said the problem was being compounded by “changes in land use, the abandonment of rural areas and the lack of effective management of forestland”. 

The report draws parallels between the fatal forest fires that scorched Peloponnese and Evia in the summer of 2007, killing more than 70 people, and the blazes that ravaged the Spanish region of Galicia in August 2006. “After two weeks of dry winds and temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius […] a wave of around 3,000 fires razed around 190,000 hectares of land,” the report notes. 

In what may appear to be nature’s revenge, fires destroyed houses that had been built in areas formerly considered to be national parks, such as Drafi. Their construction became possible when some ten years ago terrible wildfires, allegedly of criminal origin, wiped out virgin forest and allowed the status of the parks to be changed. 

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