- Published: 28 February 2013
After years of summer wildfires, Greece's forests are now slashed by illegal loggers. Greece has been wracked by its worst financial crisis since the end of World War II. While price of petrol has strongly increased, incomes has been shrinking. Sales of heating oil are nearly 80 percent down, while temperatures have dropped below freezing in much of the country, with snow felling in Athens too. Burning wood provides the same warmth as heating oil, for roughly half the cost. And the demand of wood fueled a new wave of illegal logging.
Fireplaces were long a status symbol for Greece's middle class, like the second car and the flat screen TV. Now, they are increasingly their owners' only defense against winter cold.
The heating crisis has spawned some ingenious solutions, such as stoves in northern Greece that burn fuel as unlikely as peach stones and olive pits, but wood remains the main target.
Illegal loggers doubled in 2012 compared to the year before, while the forestry services, hit so severely by cutbacks that they sometimes lack enough gasoline for car patrols, face the daunting task of policing some 6.4 million hectares (16 million acres) of forest.
The search of firewood didn't spare the mythical home of the ancient Greek gods: last year, in the are of Mount Olympus, 300 people were arrested last year for illegal logging. In 2011, officials confiscated more than 6,500 tons of illegally-cut firewood. That number doubled last year to 13,100 tons while more than 400 vehicles were impounded. Forestry officers have even been attacked by illegal loggers wielding axes or guns, in a sort of Far West in the middle of Old Europe.