Syggrou Grove Environmental Issues
Submitted By sukcout
In the north suburbs of Athens, the capital of Greece, a grove of almost 970 acres arises in Marousi, Melissia and Kifisia. It is a bequest of the great Greek benefactors, Syggros family, passed to the Greek agricultural Institute in 1921, in order to fulfill their wishes for well-educated and well-trained young farmers, by providing them the required facilities and equipment.[ Whilst exploring the grounds of Syggrou park, one may still find what is left from the initial development that took place, such as several neoclassical buildings, as well as the chapel of St Andrew, which were all part of the mansion which stood in the grove.]. The flora of the grove consists mainly of pine trees and some agricultural fields (vineyards). As far as, the fauna is concerned many bird species are bread, along with some small mammals (such as rabbits).
The grove of Syggrou, as it is known, except of providing seminars and training on several agricultural factors, is also a meeting point for young people and families that want to take a walk, cycle, exercise or even have a picnic in nature. The whole area is filled with small paths making it easy for visitors to move around and explore the grounds. It provides the opportunity to escape from daily routine instantly, as you do not have to drive for hours to reach the countryside.
Many inhabitants of the general area have become vigilant for the protection of the forest and pass this passion to their children. Syggrou grove has become an active part of everyday living; this is why the organization called “Friends of the Forest” was founded, arranging artistic activities (such as open field theatrical events and small concerts) in order to raise general sensitivity on the protection of the forests.
One of their main issues is the protection of the forest, especially during the summer months, where the danger of fires is at high risk and there are a large number of visitors every day. For that reason they arrange campaigns to inform the visitors of any hazardous activities that may lead to a fire and also what to do when a fire is spotted (i.e. the fact that an empty glass bottle can ignite a fire via magnification of the rays of the sun). Moreover, moving one step forward, they have also organized some small teams acting as a fire patrol. In the midsummer season the members of the “Friends of the Forest” gather up in order to arrange the schedule of the patrols and any other related activities. As an outcome of this not any large fire incident has occurred and many people have become more sensitive on issues such as the protection of the forests.
All those activities indicate the attitude that is cultivated among the citizens nearby the grove passing from father to child. But is the private interest enough to protect the forest?
In the morning of the 10th of July 2006, a fire begun in a hard to access area of the forest. The response of the Fire Department was instant with several fire trucks reaching the area accompanied by air forces, including 3 airplanes and 2 helicopters. In the battle against the fire many people did volunteer along with many members of the “Friends of the Forest”. A few hours later the fire was extinguished. Due to the fact that there was no road or path leading to the exact place where the fire started 10 acres of forest were burnt.
A few days later, upon the investigation of the incident a great malfunction was revealed showing the disability of the public organization responsible for the forest. The whole forest area is accessible by four large gates. Those gates open in an emergency situation in order to allow the firefighting vehicles to reach the fire. Normally there is one gate always open for the visitors to come in. During that day none of the other three gates were opened and two of them were eventually broken down by the fire trucks.
The absence of an organized emergency plan by the public organization responsible for the grove lead to the aforementioned damage. Even the extra seasonal forest protection officers were not yet appointed, due to extensive delay of the paperwork procedures along with the lack of funds.
For the whole nearby area this forest is responsible for decreasing air pollution, and flood prevention after heavy rain, among other benefits, such as the psychological factors where a forest inside the city landscape is affects daily life.
The need for a well-organized emergency plan, monitoring and guarding procedures of the grove is instant. The Greek agricultural Institute has to collaborate with the “Friends of the Forest” and other similar organizations in order to generate simple, effective and easy to implement procedures for all the above. Connections with other similar, both national and international organizations, will help create a network and improve their knowledge by experience sharing for example. Each of the above mentioned organizations related to the grove of Syggrou has taken several measures, such as locking the gates for the public when the Fire danger indicator is in the highest levels etc. Both sides measures should be presented, evaluated and blend together. For example when there are not enough funds for seasonal forest protection officers, the volunteers could contribute in this part after taking the relevant training of course.
Moreover this is not the only issue this forest is facing. When this field was given by the owners nothing was allowed to be built in order to prevent the possibility of part of the forest being sacrificed. That, however, did not mean that some small interventions could not be done. Nowadays there are not even enough litter cabins, sitting spots, water access for the visitors or even some chemical toilets. When large numbers of humans visit places such as beaches, lakes, forests etc. they normally leave their mark behind. Especially in such a large area, as this grove, visitors are many, and difficult to control. As a result in many spots you can notice garbage, including cigarettes, empty bottles or toilet paper. This is not all the visitors fault, as there are very few garbage cans, very few signs and less to zero security and guarding of the place. All this plastic can be harmful for the fauna of the area (chocking by small plastic parts etc).
This issue slowly but steadily is affecting the quality of the grove’s ecosystem. A whole plan should be generated to originate some visitor’s areas. Those areas should be equipped with all the basics providing some extra services to the public without sacrificing any of the forest’s characteristics. Firstly the gates should be guarded and incoming/outgoing visitors should be monitored. General rules for visitor’s behavior should be generated as well as proper implementation to be monitored by patrols inside the area.
Secondly, there have to be proper facilities to service basic human needs. In several spots, geographically justified and strategically placed, there should be toilets (or even chemical WCs) that have to be properly maintained in order not to end up as abandoned garbage places. That way the amount of both physical and non-physical wastes (human wastes, toilet papers etc.) will be heavily reduced. The toilets can be powered by renewable power, such as photovoltaic energy (extremely effective in a sunny country like Greece). Aside from that, spaces for disposing pet wastes should be developed, given the aount of pet owners whom use the grove as an exercise park for their animals
Moreover, sitting spots should be created adding more benches and litter cabins (both for recyclable and non-recyclable products). Many visitor’s reports, refer to the absence of all the above mentioned. Information spots should be available for anyone requiring info regarding the visitor’s rules, the history of the place, maps, activities and many more.
Furthermore we should not take into consideration only the visitor’s side but there are forest needs that have to be handled as well. The whole area shall be divided in sections where even access should be prohibited in order to protect its own ecosystem. Special areas have to be isolated to give the opportunity to the fauna to be self-maintained (reproduced) and far from human impact. These areas can be those places that are difficult to be reached in an emergency situation such as a fire, human injury etc.
Under these conditions the quality of both the forest and the nearby suburbs will be improved. A better more eco-friendly attitude will be generated among the citizens affecting their whole culture. The ideas of renewable energies, recycling and environment protection will be promoted by the use of them inside the grove along with further artistic activities that take place every summer.
All of the above measures aiming to minimize fire hazard and reduce garbage inside the grove are not only necessary to be introduced, but monitored and maintained as well. Monitoring is a crucial part of the whole procedure, thus it is suggested for the whole place to be completely shut in some short periods, probably during the winter months were number of visitors is very low, giving the time and space to the organizations responsible to evaluate the effectiveness of all those measures and improve them. Summarizing we can clearly see that neither the private interest nor the public are enough in order to protect the natural environment, especially when it is inside a city landscape where human impact is much greater. Cooperation from both sides is needed in order not only to protect and respect what nature has given to us, but to use it as a tool in our efforts towards raising general awareness on environmental issues.