That someone could set a fire in a forest without thought to the possibility that the lives of residents or firefighters could be endangered if the flames get out of control is beyond criminal.
Environmental damage aside, if Wednesday’s Akamas fires are proven to be arson attacks, authorities could do worse than tag on a charge of attempted murder if they manage to catch the perpetrators. It was only three years ago that two firefighters died during the devastation in Solea, even though in that case, the fire was caused by negligence.
The only reason that fires are deliberately set in the Akamas is to sabotage plans to declare the area a national forest park by 2022. It seems self-interested landowners in the region have been taking a leaf out of the book of their Greek cousins in laying waste to environmental areas, rendering them useless for conservation and then selling plots on to developers.
This is not the first time that fires have been set in the environmentally sensitive area on the mostly undeveloped north-west coast of the island. In a period usually marking the end of the fire season, the first two weeks of November last year saw five fires in the Akamas. In all these cases, the evidence pointed towards arson. All of the fires were set shortly after the announcement of the National Park development plan by the cabinet on November 2, 2018.
Speculation rightly suggested that the forest was purposefully set on fire to destroy the very things that would make Akamas a protected area and to gradually make way for large-scale and profitable developments. There can be no other reason.
Even the agriculture ministry admitted as much, saying it noticed that it did not appear to be a coincidence that fires occur in the area prior to each scheduled meeting of the Akamas National Forest Management Advisory Committee. The next one is scheduled for Thursday. Minister Costas Kadis said it was not accidental.
Paphos Greens said the same: “If they burn everything, how easy is it to build there then? Everything becomes easy. There is no future for the Akamas like this, behind this there is business, everyone thinks they can do what they want”, which about sums up the reason for this shameless crime.
Just because no one has died yet, does not mean it won’t happen. Ask the Greeks how many people have died during this kind of ‘routine business practice’ over the years.
This is also partly the fault of successive governments, which have for more than 30 years now been dragging their feet on wrapping up the Akamas issue because of bowing to big business on and off. It’s a miracle there is enough left of the Akamas at this stage to declare it a national park at all. When it comes to profit, nothing is sacred, not the environment, forest animals, nor the lives of other people.