The Greek Ministry of Environment has launched a €1.5 million program against illegal logging, a growing trend as many Greek citizens can no longer afford to heat their homes unless wood is used.
Proto Thema reported the new program will be implemented by the Special Secretariat for Forests, which has been handed a special budget of €1.5 million. Forestry inspections will be carried out to prevent illegal logging and timber smuggling.
The Ministry has also urged citizens to telephone a special hotline to report any instances of illegal logging which it characterizes as "catastrophic delinquent behaviors."
While the government has valid concerns regarding the deforestation of land, the situation is entirely of the government's making. The introduction of a special tax on central heating oil has priced it out of the reach of 80 percent of Greek people, forcing a growing trend of households returning to the traditional method of heat, wood.
The direct result of this change is a toxic smog hanging over the cities. The government has released a stream of health warnings relating to the use of fireplaces and woodburners. The BBC reported Professor Konstantini Samara, who is carrying out tests on air quality, said: "We have found a high concentration of fine particles that contain toxic and carcinogenic substances. They're so small that they can go deep into our lung system, causing harmful effects on public health. And they've increased from the wood burning."
The BBC spoke to an elderly man engaged in illegal logging on the slopes of Mount Olympus. He justified his actions by saying: "I know it is illegal but I have grandchildren who'll get sick from the cold. My pension has been cut so I can't afford heating oil. What can I do?"
Currently temperatures in Greece have plummeted and northern Greece is covered with a blanket of snow. With oil beyond the financial means of most, coupled with a massive increase in the price of electricity, the trend for burning wood is likely to continue. It is also clear that many of those caught by the new patrols will be unable to afford any fines imposed.