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Athens’ Kypseli neighborhood fights to save park March 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Environment.
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Residents of the most densely populated area of Greece – the Athenian neighborhood of Kypseli – have collected more than 4,000 signatures for a petition to stop the City of Athens from building an underground parking lot on the site of a local park.

The campaigners in Kypseli have also been planting trees in the park, on the corner of Patission and Kyprou Streets, which has 44 trees that are more than 100 years old.

Work on the site was due to begin in March but the forestry service has so far refused to grant permission for the trees to be cut down.

“There are already six private parking lots in the area and they are half-empty at night because people cannot afford to pay 150 euros a month,” Marina Vichou, a spokesman for the group of residents, said. “The only thing that this new parking lot will achieve is to create more pollution and traffic in our neighborhood.”

There are only 2 square meters of green space for each Kypseli resident. Local campaigners have said that they are ready to take their case to the Council of State.

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Earth Hour > Greece’s initiative March 27, 2008

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The island of Aegina will be Greece’s representative in a worldwide initiative, known as Earth Hour, this Saturday at 8 p.m. to save energy, it was revealed yesterday.

The scheme, which began in Australia, aims to get people across the world to switch off their lights for an hour. More than 30 big cities have signed up, including Sydney, Chicago and Dublin, but Athens has not shown any interest.

More than 9,000 businesses and 136,000 individuals have indicated their intention to participate at www.earthhour.org, including a group of activists from Aegina.

Saving water begins at home March 21, 2008

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To mark World Water Day today, homeowners in Greece have been encouraged to fix leaky faucets and toilet cisterns as they may be doubling each family’s water consumption.

The Director of the Athens Water Company’s (EYDAP) network, Stefanos Georgiadis, said that a leaky faucet could cause some 400 liters of water to be wasted every day when the consumption of the average Greek household is between 350 and 400 liters per day.

«A rise in water consumption is a sign of better living, so we do not want to reduce consumption to the detriment of the quality of life,» said Georgiadis. «The easiest way for us to reduce consumption is to stop all the leaks in each house.»

Georgiadis said that more accurate billing would also help to reduce consumption. He said that EYDAP only bills for 80 percent of the water that is used and that the remaining 20 percent is either not recorded by water meters or is lost through leaks.

EYDAP also sounded a word of warning about water levels ahead of the summer. «At the moment, the water reserves will suffice but we need to be careful,» said the water company’s President, Costas Kostoulas. «If the next year turns out to be as dry as the last one, then we will have to adopt emergency measures.»

Meanwhile, the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry revealed at a conference last night that it has begun a study of pollution in Thessaloniki’s Thermaic Gulf. So far scientists have established that there are at least five main sources by which the Thermaic Gulf is polluted, including rivers that empty into the sea. The readings indicate a high concentration of heavy metals, especially lead and chromium, in some areas. High levels of phosphorus and ammonia were also recorded.

Polluting the little water we have March 21, 2008

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Scientists say the uneven distribution of supply and the dumping of toxins are problems, not sufficiency

Half the country’s population and half its industries are concentrated in and around Athens and Thessaloniki but problems of water quality and quantity are by no means restricted to those areas.

Many other parts of the country are faced with drought and pollution and the story is much the same everywhere, nitrates from fertilizers used in farming, urban waste water channeled into cesspits, wells, rivers and lakes, the salination of underground water reserves in coastal areas and a fall in the level of the water table from over-drilling. The national water management and protection plan recently drafted by the National Technical University of Athens, Water Resources Department for the Environment and Public Works Ministry drew attention, among other things, to the lack of sufficient water measurements, both qualitative and quantitative, so the data available to experts is sparse and fragmented.

Yet the scientists who drafted the plan are fairly optimistic, not to say over-optimistic. They claim that Greece does not have a problem of water sufficiency, but of distribution.

In other words, northern and western areas of Greece have a surplus, eastern and southern areas a shortage. Most industries in Attica illegally dispose of their wastewater into the drainage network, the Kifissos River and other water courses. The Ano Liosia landfill site is also a source of water pollution, as is the disposal of urban wastewater in cesspits. Any agriculture still existing in the region also affects the ground water. Generally the deterioration of ground water means that it cannot be used to supply homes, and potential reserves are not enough even to meet irrigation needs.

In northern Greece, there are the same problems of nitrate pollution and excessive reliance on lake water. Western and Central Macedonia are believed to have sufficient supplies of water; any pollution is attributed to urban wastewater, farming and livestock breeding. Eastern Macedonia is considered to have abundant supplies of water; pollution is from nitrates used in farming.

In Thrace, there is a marginal sufficiency that depends to a great extent on Bulgaria, which manages the waters of the Nestos and Evros rivers. The eastern Peloponnese does not have sufficient water and the problem is getting worse. Eastern central Greece is facing similar problems, particularly in the summer. Western central Greece and Epirus have the most water in the country, and Crete too is still self-sufficient.

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.

Athens’ dirty reputation March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Living.
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Athens third-grimiest city in EU?

Athens is the third-dirtiest city in Europe, according to a survey carried out by the Tripadvisor travel website. Athens did not feature in the top three of any other category such as “most friendly locals,” “best parks” or “most romantic.”

London was voted the most expensive and dirtiest city by more than 1,100 travelers who took part in the survey. Brussels was deemed to be the most boring, according to the British survey. Paris was voted the most unfriendly city in Europe but was also found to be the most romantic.

If you visited Athens, either on a business or pleasure trip, you have concluded your own opinion. Do share it with us, by adding your comments, thank you!