Greek austerity fuels illegal logging, ministry says

ATHENS, Sept 18 Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:31am EDT

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ATHENS, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Illegal logging has surged in Greece, as households suffering five years of recession hoard wood to burn during the cold winter days in the place of expensive heating oil, authorities said on Tuesday.

The environment ministry has ordered regional authorities to step up checks in forested areas to crack down on unauthorised loggers. "This phenomenon has soared recently because of the crisis," it said in a statement.

Once a symbol of poverty, the lowly wood burning stove is making a comeback among cash-strapped Greeks horrified by the soaring costs of central heating as winter begins.

The price of heating fuel will rise 40 percent next month as part of austerity measures to boost government revenue under Greece's international bailout. The government is mulling a heating fuel subsidy to residents of cold, mountainous regions.

Steeper heating oil prices come on top of other harsh austerity measures, eroding further households' disposable income. Use of wooden stoves, already much in demand last year, is expected to rise even more. (Reporting by Harry Papachristou. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

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