Monday, 25 September 2006

Huisje, boompje, beestje (In the usual way)

Finally! On Saturday night for the first time since summer heavy rain fell on the island. And Lesvos clearly freshened up. The showers which mainly fell early on Sunday morning, accompanied by heavy thunderstorms, did not cause too many problems, thanks to the early hour. A lot of people wouldn't have even noticed that from 5.00 to 7.00 there was a power cut.

I had to get out of bed in the middle of the night to unplug my computer and the telephone. And then I couldn't get back to sleep because of the loud thunder and blinding lightning. So I got a book to read and later on I had to get some candles in order to be able to carry on reading. Thunderstorms are not my favourite weather.

The island however welcomed the rain. Last week on Samos there were still more hectares of woodland destroyed by fire. Lesvos did reasonably well this summer. Except for a large area south of Mytilini there was not too much damage done by fires. The worst fire this summer was a few weeks ago in Halkidiki at Cassandra where two people lost their life, thousands of hectares of beautiful wood were consumed by fire, houses and businesses were destroyed, tourists had to be evacuated and a lot of farm land was lost. As well as many olive trees, the Greek honey industry was badly affected.

However most fires occur around Athens. This is for a reason. It's not because they are particularly careless with fire, but because there are unscrupulous people who are always looking for building land. The easiest way to get some land cleared of vegetation is to set fire to it. After that you only have to bribe somebody in the municipality and you can proclaim yourself the proud owner of a new piece of land.

The papers are always writing about these wicked deals. A wood that is not a wood anymore, because of a fire, should become a wood again according to development plans. But members of the municipality and of the government quickly forget that burned places were once a wood. Only a small piece is reforested, the rest is bargained away to property speculators.

In Cassandra it seems they do things differently. A few weeks after the fires, hundreds of people went to replant and fortify the land, so that the winter rains would not wash away the soil containing seeds for new vegetation. In Asia they use elephants to do the hard work in the woods. In Cassandra they were aided by some 300 donkeys which are trained to transport wood and put tree trunks in the right places.

Lesvos still has plenty of land to build on. Here they do not need arsonists. But they build everywhere. So many people want a summerhouse here on the island that small builders merchants are as numerous as new houses. These are plots of land full of wood, stones, cement and other building materials. It is only because the plot of land is fenced, that you can see that it is not an illegal tip. But it is a blot on the landscape.

Just as we finally got rid of all the old wrecked cars littering the island, we now have these small businesses creating an eyesore.

Number one of these eyesores is the business that should probably be the appetizer for the village of Argenos, which is on the way to Sykaminia. Befoer this village there is a plot of land full of all kinds of building materials and you really have to look closely in order to realise that it is not a rubbish tip. It is unbelievable that this village is promoting itself in this way.

Greeks do not really understand what pollution is, especially landscape pollution, a term that if explained they will probably have a good laugh about. They already have enough problems getting rid of their rubbish. If the government does not show a strong hand in building plants to process waste, there never will be a solution to this problem. At least they never thought of renting a ship in order to transport rubbish to Africa. Good. Greeks do not like to export their waste, like some other members of the European Union.

So I have to accept that some enterprising Greeks rent plots of natural land to use as a storage depot. I will have to prepare myself for the southern wind they forecast for later in the week, which will bring the stink of burning rubbish. Because they expect more rain they have set fire to the dump. I should make a big sign with a huge skull and crossbones warning of the stink and toxic fumes. Maybe that will reduce land prices around here. They're getting pretty upsetting too.

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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