Monday, August 27, 2007

Are developers terrorists?

Some ecologists might argue that all developers are terrorists against the environment. I wouldn't go that far. But in our culture of unsustainable excess, developers tend to be among the chief enablers.

In one country, though, developers may be actual terrorists, under the legal definition of the word.

A spate of fires erupted in Greece last Friday. Officials are convinced that the blazes were started by arsonists.

“So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence,” said Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis. “The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them,” which might include prosecution under the country's anti-terrorist laws.

There is an increasing belief that the fires were deliberately set in the hopes that protected forest land that burnt down would be transfered into private hands for property development.

The Financial Times reported that While Greece requires burned forest areas to be immediately replanted, devel­opers have few problems in finding a way round the law. Burned areas are re-classified by local officials as farmland that can be sold for development.
“Because of the lack of political will to implement the law, it’s easy to build on forest land,” said Theodota Nantsou, policy co-ordinator in Greece for WWF, the conservation agency. “Ahead of an election, for example, thousands of illegal buildings suddenly become legal.”

Fast-growing demand for second homes, driven by north Europeans as well as Greeks, has increased pressure for development of forests, especially in the Peloponnese and near Athens.

Alexia Papadakis, a real estate agent, said the island of Evia is a prime target for developers because of its proximity to Athens and improved transport connections. “Sadly, it’s no surprise that there is a big fire on Evia,” she said.

Authorities have even offered a reward of 100,000 Euros (approx. US$136,000) for information leading to the arrest of any of the arsonists.

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