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The fire season of 2007 in Greece was the worst in the recent history of the country as it set new records in regard to damages and loss of life. An account of what happened and the reasons that led to the disaster, such as extreme conditions, fuel build-up, wildland-urban interface development, citizen indifference, and poor firefighting are presented. The failure to address these problems, as evidenced by a major 2009 wildfire that burned 20000 ha a few km NE from Athens, is also discussed, leading to lessons that should be learned in order to avoid repetition of such disasters in the future.
The present work addresses the problem of lack of coordination between policies and actors with joint competence for risk management, i.e., civil protection, spatial planning, and sectoral planning (e.g., forest policy in the case of forest fire risk). Spatial planning in particular is assigned a minor or no role at all though it might perfectly operate as the coordinating policy platform; the reason is that spatially relevant analysis and policy guidance is an omnipresent component of the risk management cycle. However, disconnected risk relevant policies turning a blind eye to spatial planning might cause several adverse repercussions: Breaks in the response-preparedness-prevention-remediation chain (which should function as a continuum), minimal attention to prevention, risk expansion and growth instead of mitigation, lack of synergies between involved actors as well as duplicated or even diverging measures and funding. The authors bear witness to the above suggestions by examining three cases of European (regional and local) risk management systems faced with failures when confronting natural hazards (floods and forest fires). These three systems are embedded in different types of political-administrative structures, namely those of the city of Dortmund (Germany) facing floods, Eastern Attica region (Greece), and Lazio Region (Italy) facing forest fires.
Separation and isolation of Spatial Planning from the other co-responsible policies for risk mitigation, i.e. civil protection and sectoral risk prevention, leads to unwelcome results: - Reservation of a minor role or no role of Spatial Planning for Risk Mitigation; - Breaks in the Response-Preparedness-Prevention-Remediation chain; - Duplicated or diverging measures and funding; - Minimal attention to Prevention and emphasis on Emergency Management; - Inefficient and ineffective resource consumption for Risk Mitigation. All above failures are evident in the Greek Forest Fire Risk Management system which is weak in terms of prevention and ineffective in crisis management being expensive at the same time. These failures are more evident in the forest-fire prone regions of Greece, as is the Region of Attica wherein Athens is located. Despite stringency of the Greek Forest Law its implementation is a big problem because its rationale is totally incompatible with the Housing, Development and Spatial Planning policies. Therefore, the co-responsible agencies for forest fire risk mitigation in East Attica blame one another for the failure of the system instead of attempting mutual understanding and coordination. Fortunately, the Attica Region had the opportunity to become a partner of the INCA (EU funded) project and apply the new concept of “Agreement on Objectives” and adjoining Road Map instrument in the area falling under the jurisdiction of the “Directorates of Forests of East Attica”. The present work attempts to present this application and results; also to recommend this approach as a model of Risk Governance. The specific application of the model in the area of East Attica evolved through a series of procedural steps, accommodating continuous feedback and leading to the implementation of a package of consensual inter-sectoral measures. These steps are: • Establishment of a Working Group (WG) consisting of all responsible actors to serve an “umbrella objective”, i.e. “reduction of Forest Fire Risk in East Attica”. • Arrival of the WG at four specific goals to be pursued by actions of the WG. • Enlargement of the WG and agreement upon concrete inter-sectoral measures in East Attica while distributing responsibilities of implementation. These measures have been: - Informing-training-raising awareness of the school population; - Enhancing self-defense of residences and creating a relevant geo-data information basis; - Correcting contradictions regarding competences affecting forest fire risk; • Evaluation, monitoring and control of the achievements by means of monitoring indicators and measuring values. The application of the concept in the test area of East Attica proved to be successful despite pre-existing administrative and cultural adversities. The major decisive factor has been the involvement of Local Authorities in the WG. The test application indicated that a knowledge intensive institution and constant facilitation of feedback are preconditions of success. It is hoped that the successful experiment of application of the novel Risk Governance process in East Attica will be followed by imitators.