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Protesters marched in Athens July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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Protesters blast Athens’ failure to douse Mount Parnithia fire > More protests and action is planned in the next few days

More than 1,000 protesters marched in Athens Tuesday to protest lacking government action to put out a massive fire on Mount Parnithia north of the Greek capital, AFP reports.

Protestors shouted “Now someone must pay for Mount Parnithia!” and “Give money to the environment!” as they marched from Athens University to the Parliament building in the centre of the capital.

The Greece Social Forum, the country’s SYN leftist coalition and left-leaning environmental groups organised the demonstration. Protesters called for Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras to resign over his failure to effectively organise the efforts to save the smouldering mountain, considered the green lung of Athens. His post includes responsibility for the fire brigade.

The fire, which raged for four days and which according to preliminary estimates laid waste to more than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of pine forest, mainly in the Mount Parnitha National Park, was finally extinguished on Tuesday, the fire department said.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias said the nation was mourning the destruction to the nature park and called on the government to commit to a national policy for the environment. Conservative Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis meanwhile insisted that the area would be “reforested”.

The Mount Parnithia blaze was one of more than 100 fires that broke out across Greece in the past week, following an exceptionally long heatwave. Temperatures of more than 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) have been blamed for at least 15 deaths.

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A disaster that was waiting to happen > Cement and profit July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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There are many who had predicted last week’s energy crisis and environmental disaster as the warning signs were there for all to see

Before spring, experts had warned authorities of the threat of widespread blackouts during the summer months as the country’s energy reserves were inadequate. As for forest fires, they are the constant nightmare of government officials during the sweltering summer months.The power cuts suffered by a large segment of the population during last week’s oppressive heat wave were a disaster waiting to happen. Of course no one disputes that the weather conditions were unprecedented and demand for electricity hit record levels as citizens sought respite with their air conditioners.

But the Public Power Corporation (PPC), which manages the country’s electricity network, had not taken any preventive measures. This has been the case for years and as a result all governments, regardless of political persuasion, have essentially been guilty of the same crime.

The country’s largest state-run enterprise reached the point of not wanting the public to buy its product because it was unable to satisfy demand.

The roots of this problem are the same as those that cripple and discredit all public services in the country, mismanagement and a focus on narrow, petty political interests as well as the absence of any clear strategy or policy. Neither the current New Democracy government nor the previous PASOK administrations realized the investments necessary for the creation of new power stations to run on natural gas. The plans have existed for years but no action has been taken to implement them. Meanwhile, old power stations have not been modernized and the distribution network has not been improved. In view of this, it is a miracle that we did not have a Nationwide blackout.

Sadly, the forest fires that ravaged Mount Parnitha and other parts of the country had also been a disaster waiting to happen. There are forest fires every year in Greece. And although the country has wide-ranging firefighting resources, they nevertheless remain vulnerable, as the blazes in Parnitha and Pelion proved. The possibility of being caught off guard is ever present and can lead to errors of judgment.

Unfortunately the disaster is now a reality which cannot be reversed. What can, and must, be done is an assessment of what went wrong and why. After all, those responsible protecting Attica’s last vestige of greenery have failed in their mission. Let us not suffer a similar disaster the next time a heat wave hits the capital.

We must also take measures to ensure that the burnt expanses of forestland are not built on by property developers. It is not enough for them to be merely designated as forestland; their status as such must be protected against all pressures that are likely to be exerted during this pre-election period.

The destruction of the Mount Parnitha National Park and parts of Pelion have pierced our hearts. But we appear to be sad for the wrong reasons.

Our sadness originates from an aesthetic loss, such as the killed deer, or the loss of a source of fresh air and unsullied natural landscape, and rightfully so. We feel anger at the sluggish state. Again, rightfully so. But a forest fire is for the most part a natural phenomenon and, under the proper conditions, a way for the ecosystem to renew itself. Experts have long known the conditions for reforestation, politicians ought to know them too. In fact, there’s only one condition: Protect a burnt forest against landgrabbers and it will grow back, just as forests have done for thousands of years. Politicians’ promises of immediate reforestation are suspect. That’s because safeguarding a destroyed forest area is mandated by the Constitution; it’s not some original or bold decision. More importantly, we should confront our politicians with questions: Why have you delayed the classification of forest areas? What have you done to protect burnt forest areas from landgrabbers? Have you come up with a forest register? Have you considered the input of environmental and scientific experts? Have you warned greedy individuals against building their homes next to forest areas? The answer is always the same: “No.”

National growth is propelled by a monstrous machine: the real estate business. The aim is to turn everything into plots of land. Cement and profit are kings. There are no measures to ensure a balanced, sustainable living environment. There is no prevention or implementation of the law. Politicians rehash the same old mantra: “A new forest will replace the old.” But what is a forest? Where is it? How do we define it? There’s only one thing to ask of our politicians: clarify forest areas. And leave them alone. The rest is insincere and destructive.

Confusion fed forest blaze July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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PPC and fire service did not communicate when Parnitha fire began

Comments by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the fire service yesterday indicated that there had been a major breakdown in communication between the two that might have contributed to the fire that devastated the Mount Parnitha forest spreading as far as it did.

Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said that aircraft had not been used to drop water when the fire first broke out in Dervenohoria, near Parnitha, because there were electricity pylons running through the area and it was feared that they could be knocked out, causing a blackout in Athens.

However, PPC’s general manager for transmission, Dimitris Bousdekis, said yesterday that the power cables in question were put out of operation for safety reasons when the fire broke out. «The firefighters must have known,» said Bousdekis.

The chief of the fire service, Andreas Kois, said that he had not known the power cables were inactive. «We were never informed of the matter and as such were not in any position to know whether the pylons were carrying power or not,» Kois said.

Some 500 firefighters and soldiers continued for a sixth day yesterday to extinguish the embers of the fire, which is estimated to have burned up to 4,000 hectares of forest in the National Park on Parnitha.

Experts are investigating what caused the fire to start, with the possibility that it was arson becoming more likely. Kois also said that the fire began simultaneously in three different spots in Dervenohoria and that the remnants of incendiary devices had been found at two of them.

Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas has launched a preliminary investigation into the causes and handling of the blaze. Environmental experts have warned that the Parnitha fire is likely to have a number of effects on the climate in Attica, including a rise in temperature and air pollution.

Ineptitude proves costly > Every Greek is justifiably outraged at the ongoing, gradual death of the Mount Parnitha National Park. The widespread destruction caused by devastating fires over the past week is in many areas irreparable. It is tragic that, yet again, after the event comes the realization that the worst could have been averted if the authorities had acted more efficiently. The fact that the Public Power Corporation did not even inform the fire service that it had cut power to the pylons on the mountain, thus making it possible to drop water from firefighting aircraft without risking a blackout, is indeed extraordinary. Moreover, firefighters on the scene failed to notify their superiors or the Public Order Ministry accordingly. Sadly, the question as to when the country will be destroyed because of the complete lack of communication between services that are supposed to be protecting it, is becoming a rhetorical one.

A plea for a national water plan July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Nature.
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Greece is planning new golf courses in different parts of the country and building tourism hubs without having figured out how to supply the new projects with water, experts said yesterday.

Dimitris Papayiannidis, President of the Association of Civil Engineers of Greece (ACEG), said that parts of Greece such as the Aegean Islands and the coastal area of Pieria, northern Greece, run the risk of desertification in the immediate future, while elsewhere water is being wasted.

“A high 87 percent of water consumed in the country goes toward the irrigation of 1.3 million hectares. Of this, farmers consume water as they please for 700,000 hectares, while on the remaining 600,000 hectares, water is channeled via old networks creating losses of up to 40 percent,” said Papayiannidis.

Senior Environment Ministry officials admitted that Greece needs to review its water management policies at a national level and announced the inauguration of a water committee, as dictated by EU directives.

Diversion project for the Acheloos River July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Nature.
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An ambitious program to provide water for intensive farming on the Thessaly Plain raises questions rather than providing answers

The Thessaly Plain is very thirsty, with a water shortfall of nearly 1,500 million cubic meters. But irrigation pipes spew out unlimited supplies that spill over the boundaries of fields to the extent that 70 percent of the supply goes to waste.

The plain of Thessaly, once the country’s breadbasket, is now dying of thirst, as the intensive monoculture of cotton and the waste of water resources, the abuse of fertilizers and other chemicals, as well as subsidies spent carelessly, have all brought about the pollution of the Pineios River, emptied ground water reserves and dried up springs.

An ambitious project for the diversion of the Acheloos River was planned to provide water for the plain, but will only perpetuate the existing situation. The farmers are unaware, or pretend to be, that the water should be paid for, that at some point the subsidies will cease and that there is no future in cotton. Some people are aware, however, the scientists, the experts, and those who were approached by daily Kathimerini to provide answers to 10 questions about the problem. Then there are the politicians who are also aware, and who are in a position to make decisions. Over 25 years of conflict, promises, an outlay of 720 million euros, environmental and social problems and the diversion of the Acheloos has assumed legendary proportions. Perhaps it is time to take a reality check. Thessaly has a lot of cotton fields but not much water. Perhaps, before we bring in water from somewhere else, we should talk about the future of cotton.

The future of Acheloos water > The people of Thessaly have been pushing for the diversion for 24 years; the people of Acarnania have been fighting it with equal fervor. The cause of the dispute: All the water that will be lost to Aitoloacarnania will go to the plain of Thessaly.

* 280 kilometers of river, 17.5 kilometers of tunnel to divert the water into Thessaly;

* The Council of State has rejected the plan six times;

* 3,900 of the 63,000 hectares of the Acheloos Delta are protected by the Ramsar Convention;

* 500,000 hectares under cultivation, 250,000 hectares irrigated (18.7 percent of the country’s total);

* 70 percent irrigated with underground water reserves and municipal wells, 30 percent with surface water; wells now reach depths of 350 meters, compared to 35 meters in 1970;

* Extent of irrigated areas increased by 229 percent since 1962, 46 percent since 1980;

* Water shortage now 1,000-1,500 cubic meters, diversion will provide 600 million cubic meters.

Baghdatis through to last 16 at Wimbledon July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis, a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year, advanced to the Grand Slam tournament’s fourth round with a sturdy straight-sets victory yesterday against Argentine David Nalbandian, a former finalist.

Baghdatis, who is the world’s No 16 and 10th seed at Wimbledon, stormed to his win over Nalbandian, ranked 25 in the world, with an impressive 6-2, 7-5, 6-0 score. The Cypriot will face either Nikolay Davydenko or France’s Gael Montfils for a place in the quarterfinals. Much of yesterday’s schedule of play was affected by persistent rainfall.

Defending champion Roger Federer was handed a bye into the quarterfinals when German No 1 Tommy Haas pulled out with a torn stomach muscle.

No world records at the Athens Grand Prix July 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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Greece’s Constantinos Douvalidis sets National record in men’s 110m hurdles at the Athens Grand Prix

Constantinos Douvalidis set a new National record in the men’s 110-meter hurdles yesterday with a time of 13.54 seconds. He broke his own record of 13.59 seconds, set at the National Championships on June 17.

No world records were set at last night’s Grand Prix track and field meeting in Athens, but several athletes did register lofty performances before a solid turnout at the Athens Olympic Stadium.

Russian Tatyana Lebedeva set the best triple-jump mark of the year with a leap of 15.14 meters. The 30-year-old European champion thus became the first woman to clear 15 meters this outdoor season. Emerging Greek athlete Constantinos Douvalidis set a new National record in the men’s 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.54 seconds. But he ended last in his heat. Douvalidis had registered a time of 13.59 seconds at the National Championships on June 17.

“It was incredible to run next to such major athletes. The National record was like an additional present for me,” Douvalidis said. “Some day I want to be part of the elite,” he added.

Greece’s Pygi Devetzi came third in the women’s triple jump with a 14.57-meter performance, her best for the year.

Greece’s Fani Halkia, who won gold in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the Athens Olympics, withdrew from competition yesterday after pulling a muscle during her warmup routine.

Louis Tsatoumas, a top performer for Greece at the recent European Cup in Munich, pulled out of the men’s long jump yesterday after injuring himself slightly on his first attempt.

James Carter, the world’s fastest runner this year in the men’s 400-meters hurdles ended third in his heat with a time of 48.25 seconds. Going into the race, the American, whose performance of 47.72 seconds stands as the year’s best, had said it was too soon to think about beating Kevin Young’s time of 46.78 in the final of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.