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Old Mesolongi is in search of new opportunities March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Mainland, Nature.
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Famous for its lagoons, writers and politicians, Mesolongi city is now looking to move into the modern era

29-03-08_mesolongi1.jpg  The Mesolongi lagoon is one the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean. It is formed by six lagoons that are part of the Natura 2000 network. Modern cafes line the streets of the city next to the few remaining fishmongers. The young travel on bicycles, which is the main form of transport, not only for students but also for the local residents, thanks to the flat terrain.

Finding employment in this historic city, however, is far from easy. Twenty-five-year-old Thanassis Ninis said: «We have our history and the lagoon to be proud of, but only those who have the right profession will stay in Mesolongi. As an agronomist, I found a job and fish farmers can also find work. But someone who has studied information technology will not find employment here.»

29-03-08_mesolongi2.jpg  It is not uncommon to find qualified teachers working in cafes or doing jobs unrelated to their qualifications. One of the few factories in the city, which produces avgotaraho, a kind of pressed caviar, was opened by Stelios Kotsaris, who decided to take up his father’s trade rather than do odd jobs.

The town that became renowned throughout Europe for the heroic mass exodus of its people after two months of siege in 1826 and their subsequent massacre by the Turks in the Greek War of Independence has produced five Prime Ministers, Spyridon Trikoupis, Epameinondas Deligeorgis, Harilaos Trikoupis, and Zinovios and Dimitris Valvis, and numerous writers, Palamas, Malakasis, Drosinis, Travlantonis, Golfis, Lyberakis, Giannaras, Kasolas, Zalakostas and Griparis, but today, apart from its cultural heritage, it has little to be proud of in terms of economic development.

29-03-08_mesolongi3.jpg  The town was initially founded by Dalmatian pirates and fishermen who took refuge in the area. It was later called Mezzo Lagi, literally meaning “between the lakes” by Italian sailors.

Mesolongi could in fact be considered the eighth island of the seven-island group of the Ionian Islands. In the 1960s, fishing was the main occupation in this picturesque and quiet city. Large sections of the lagoon were drained at this time and the fishermen slowly abandoned fishing and became general workers. There was a large population shift, as over half the town’s residents left while others came and settled from nearby villages.

Today the young frequent the cafes and complain about the lack of opportunities in the area and the high rents. Landlords charge as much as 300-350 euros a month for a damp bedsit. Among the ultramodern cafes, the legendary ouzeri Potopoieia Trikene, run by Pantelis and Eleni, is eye-catching. Upon entering, visitors feel as though they have entered a different era, as though the store, built in 1901, has been untouched by time. The characteristic old floor tiles, clock, marble counter and awards won in Thessaloniki fairs all have their own special place. The store used to be a popular haunt for the town’s artists and writers. Its owner complains that little of the cultural spirit of bygone days now remains. Nevertheless the pedestrian zones in the center and the cafes and bars have brought with them a renaissance of a kind.

The Mesolongi lagoon is one the most important wetlands in the Mediterranean. It is made up of six lagoons that are part of the Natura 2000 network set up by the Ramsar Convention. The islet of Tourlida is connected to Mesolongi by a causeway stretching 5 kilometers long. Unfortunately, the edges of the lake have been used as a dumping ground. The rows of old wooden fishing huts that stand on stilts have now been turned into summer homes and are connected to the electricity grid, albeit illegally, to secure votes for politicians. The well-known natural fish farms or ivaria are located here and are the main form of fishing in the lagoon. The ivaria serve as traps into which the fish are herded. The leasing of the ivaria, however, has been controversial, as they are divided between the Mesolongi Municipality and the Prefecture of Western Greece which apply party criteria and charge exorbitant fees. Illegal fishing, trawling and drag nets in the Gulf of Patras are a major problem, as they prevent the fish from actually reaching the ivaria. Greece, though, is a country where everything is allowed and everything is forbidden.

For years, an incineration site on the southeastern bank of the Kleisovas Lagoon was in operation with disastrous consequences. Fortunately, the establishment of a waste treatment plant closed the site and recent water samples have shown that the lagoon is not polluted, though human activity has damaged the area. President of the Friends of the Lagoon Association Haralambos Gogousis highlighted: «The area is known for its fish, salt and eels. What people don’t know about is the tincture of iodine, a red iodine found only here, in Mesolongi and Japan. Phosphorus is also abundant but we do not exploit it. The lagoon is a reflection of Mesolongi and we are unfortunately destroying it with garbage and overfishing.»

29-03-08_mesolongi4.jpg  The town became famous for the heroic mass exodus of its people after two months of siege in 1826 and their massacre by the Turks in the Greek War of Independence. In the cemetery, this “Daughter of Greece” marks the grave of independence hero Markos Botsaris.  The capital of Aitoloacarnania prefecture is 248 km from Athens, 523 km from Thessaloniki, 198 km from Ioannina and only 49 km from Patras. There are 15,000 permanent residents, 18,000 counting students.

What to see > Historic Gateway, Garden of the Heroes, cemetery and tomb of Markos Botsaris, the Palamas Museum, the Trikoupis home, the Zinovios Valvis family home, now a library, the old Town Hall with the Museum of Art and History, the Christos and Sophia Moschandreos Art Gallery in a renovated 1835 building and the house of Razis-Kotsikas.

What to taste > sea bass, spaghetti with eel or avgotaraho.

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Water on Cyprus is rationed March 26, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Nature.
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Authorities on the island of Cyprus announced Monday that they were immediately reducing the water supply to people’s homes to cope with a “dramatic” drought that has left dams nearly empty.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said supply cuts of 30 percent were a “necessary measure” in light of a 17-million-cubic-meter (600-million-cubic-feet) shortfall in water reserves. The island needs 66.7 million cubic meters (2.35 billion cubic feet) a year to cover its needs.

“We’ve initiated a number of measures to tackle the truly dramatic situation we’re facing,” Stefanou told reporters. Stefanou said the government would reduce by almost a third the supply to local water boards that distribute water to homes. The cuts will take effect at once. Other measures include the construction of pipelines to feed local reservoirs with water that will be shipped from Greece in tankers five months from now.

Authorities also plan to double the daily output from a desalination plant now being built, to 40,000 cubic meters (1.4 million cubic feet) by October. Cyprus already has two operating desalination plants with a combined daily output of 92,000 cubic meters (3.2 million cubic feet) and the government will look into using more portable units.

Stefanou said officials will bore more into the island’s water table. A water conservation campaign will also be stepped up.

Meanwhile, officials will draw up a long-term strategy to help the island effectively deal with chronic shortages caused by its heavy dependence on rainfall. Capacity at the island’s dams now stands at just over 10 percent, 2.5 times less than their capacity at this time last year. Compounding the lack of rain are record-setting temperatures for March that reached Monday to 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit).

More firefighters are to be hired March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Greece News, Nature.
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Almost 7,000 firefighters are to be hired in the next few weeks

Some 5,500 seasonal firefighters will be hired on April 1 along with some 1,200 full-time firemen as Greece beefs up its fire defenses ahead of the summer.

Deputy Interior Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis informed a parliamentary committee yesterday about the hirings as he blamed the fire service’s poor performance during the wildfires last summer on a lack of coordination. “What was to blame last summer was a lack of coordination and the interventions by local officials that stemmed from ignorance or panic,” he said.

Tsunami readiness tests for coastlines March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece, Environment, Nature, Science.
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Greece should start holding tsunami readiness tests in the southern Aegean and southern Ionian, according to Greek and Italian scientists who are creating an early warning system for the Mediterranean.

The system, being developed under the auspices of UNESCO, should be in place by the end of the year and fully functional by 2011, according to Stefano Tinti of the University of Bologna.

Already three seismograph systems are in operation, said Gerasimos Papadopoulos of the Athens Geodynmaic Institute, adding that six sea-level gauges will be set up, two in Crete and four in the Ionian.

Particular care must be taken during the tourist season, the experts said. “Local authorities will be trained in readiness exercises,” Tinti said. “Evacuating the beaches of 10 Greek islands in summer cannot be taken lightly,” he added.

UPDATED > 15 March 2008 >>> Tsunami that devastated the ancient world could return

“The sea was driven back, and its waters flowed away to such an extent that the deep sea bed was laid bare and many kinds of sea creatures could be seen,” wrote Roman historian Ammianus Marcellus, awed at a tsunami that struck the then-thriving port of Alexandria in 365 AD.

“Huge masses of water flowed back when least expected, and now overwhelmed and killed many thousands of people… Some great ships were hurled by the fury of the waves onto the rooftops, and others were thrown up to two miles (three kilometres) from the shore.”

Ancient documents show the great waves of July 21, 365 AD claimed lives from Greece, Sicily and Alexandria in Egypt to modern-day Dubrovnik in the Adriatic.

Swamped by sea water, rich Nile delta farmland was abandoned and hilltop towns became ghost-like, inhabited only by hermits. The tsunami was generated by a massive quake that occurred under the western tip of the Greek island of Crete, experts believe. Until now, the main thinking has been that this quake, as in the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, occurred in a so-called subduction zone.

A subduction zone is where two of the Earth’s plates meet. One plate rides over another plate which is gliding downward at an angle into the planet’s mantle. Subduction zones usually have measurable creep, of say a few centimetres (inches) a year. But as the rock becomes brittle and deformed at greater depths, these zones can also deliver titanic quakes, displacing so much land that, when the slippage occurs on the ocean floor, a killer wave is generated.

The 365 AD quake occurred at a point on the 500-kilometre (300-mile) long Hellenic subduction zone, which snakes along the Mediterranean floor in a semi-circle from southwestern Turkey to western Greece.

Researchers in Britain have taken a fresh look at this event and have come up with some worrying news. University of Cambridge professor Beth Shaw carried out a computer simulation of the quake, based especially on fieldwork in Crete where the push forced up land by as much as 10 metres (32.5 feet).

They estimate the quake to have been 8.3-8.5 magnitude and that its land displacement, of 20 metres (65 feet) on average, puts it in the same category as the 9.3 temblor that occurred off Sumatra in 2004. They conclude the slippage occurred along 100 kilometres (about 60 miles) on a previously unidentified fault that lies close to the surface, just above the subduction zone.

The quake happened at a depth of around 45 kilometres (30 miles), around 30 kilometres (20 miles) closer to the surface than would have been likely if the slip had occurred on the subduction fault itself. After the 365 AD quake, the fault is likely to remain quiet for around 5,000 years.

But if the tectonic structure along the rest of the Hellenic subduction zone is similar, a tsunami-generating quake could strike the eastern Mediterranean in roughly 800 years, the scientists estimate. The last tsunami to hit the eastern Mediterranean occurred on August 8, 1303. According to research published in 2006, a quake off Crete of about 7.8 magnitude hit Alexandria 40 minutes later with a wave nine metres (29.25 feet) high.

“That there has been only one other such event… in the past 1,650 years should focus our attention on the modern-day tsunami hazard in the eastern Mediterranean,” the new study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, warns. “Repetition of such an event would have catastrophic consequences for today’s densely-populated Mediterranean coastal regions.”

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is setting up a tsunami alert system for the Mediterranean as part of a global network established after the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster.

The Pafos State Forest March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos, Nature.
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The Pafos State Forest occupies mainly the north-western slopes of the Troodos Range and covers an area of 700k square metres and extends from the districts of Limassol and Nicosia and Pafos at sea level – to the north it reaches up to the villages of Pomos, Kato Pyrgos tis Tillyrias and the occupied village of Varisia. To the east it extends up to the villages of Gerakies, Lemythou etc and to the west up to the villages of Lysos, Kinousa, Argaka and Gialia.

Flora > The Pafos Forest is mostly a natural forest, regenerating itself and the most dominant species found all over the area is the Brutia Pine (Pinus Brutia) – the common wild pine. Smaller trees and shrubs occupy specific biotopes of the forest ecosystem.

The riverine vegetation, which can be found at all elevations includes mainly broadleaves such as the plane-tree (Platanus Orientalis) the alnus tree (Alnus Orientalis), the laurel (Laurus Nobilis) the myrtle (Myrtus Communist) and the bramble (Rubus Sanctus), giving the vegetation a unique combination of colours. In the lowland, high trees become sparse and the small shrubs as well mossy and grassy plants, make up a very rich and dense vegetation of high ecological and aesthetical value.

A special place in the Flora of Pafos Forest is held by the Cyprus cedar (Cedrus Brevifolia). It is the only endemic tree of the Cyprus forests and forms the unique natural forest of the Tipylos slopes and the world famous Cedar Valley.

14-03-08_cyprus_cedar.jpg  The Cyprus Cedar grows and forms pure and mixed strands with the wild pine at 600m up to 1,352m altitude. The presence of the Cyprus Cedar gives a distinct and unique character to the forest ecosystem.

In 1984 the Council of Ministers declared the Tripylos and the Cedar Valley area covering 823 hectares a Nature Reserve for the protection of the flora and fauna according to the provisions of the Forest Law.

The number of different plant species found in the Pafos Forest has been estimated to exceed 600. 50 of these are endemic to Cyprus. The existence of a large number of orchids such as Limodorum Abortivum, Orchis Sancta, Ophrys Levantina and Serapias Vomeracea are found only in Pafos Forest.

14-03-08_cyprus_moufflon.jpg  Fauna > The Pafos Forest was declared a Permanent Game Reserve in 1938 and since then it constitutes a perfect shelter for wildlife. The Cyprus Moufflon the largest endemic mammal of the island lives and reproduces in special biotopes of the Pafos forest. The presence of the fox, hare, hedgehog, rare and protected eagles and other birds, many species of the owl, partridge, wood-pigeon, turtle doves along with different species of snakes and lizards and rare butterflies compose a rich fauna of immense ecological value and importance for Cyprus.

Courtesy of the Pafos Forestry Department, Pafos, Cyprus.

Cyprus eyes water imports March 11, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus News, Nature.
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Drought-hit Cyprus is seeking water supplies from Lebanon to cope with a crippling shortage which has seen its reserves fall to dangerously low levels, the Cypriot Agriculture Minister said on Friday.

Technical details of the transfer by ship tankers will be discussed in the coming month, Agriculture Minister Michalis Polinikis said. “Over the next 10 days, we will be looking at the technical details of transferring water from Lebanon,” he said.

The Mediterranean island has seen little rainfall this winter, marking the fourth consecutive year of drought. Reservoirs are about 10 percent full. The island also has two desalination plants running at full capacity and a third is due to come on stream later this year. Authorities were also considering quotas on water use to control waste, the Minister said.

Lebanon, which lies 243 kilometers (151 miles) southeast of Cyprus, was offering Cyprus the water without charge.

Regeneration works on Lycabettus Hill March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment, Nature.
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Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Friday toured forested Lycabettus Hill, located in the heart of the congested Greek capital and overlooking the Acropolis, to review regeneration works in important green space.

The Μunicipality is carrying out nearly 700,000 euros worth of regeneration works on Lycabettus Hill, part of efforts to upgrade the metropolis’ overall natural environment. Some 500 trees and 34,000 bushes have so far been planted in the area.

“The trees were specifically chosen for their ability to withstand the city’s climatic conditions, and I personally was enthused to see that almond trees, which are in bloom, have been planted at two sites … infrastructure works are also being conducted at Lycabettus. This endeavour, initiated by the previous municipal administration, is now complete … I am certain that Athenians will notice the difference when they come up to Lycabettus on Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera),” Kaklamanis said, in reference to the religious holiday on Monday, ending the Carnival season.