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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.

Dirty coasts turnoff for Greeks October 16, 2007

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Industrial and household waste marring beaches of main cities, threatening crucial tourism revenue > A sign reading ‘Garbage dump’ was seen on the coast in Kalohori, near Thessaloniki, last month. Pollution, especially from industry, is marring much of Greece’s coastline, in some cases irreparably, experts say.

Greece is struggling to contain coastal pollution which threatens its renowned azure waters and golden coastlines, the main sources of its booming tourism industry.

“A few years ago, I swam here every day but the past two summers it is just too dirty, so I just play on the beach,” said 37-year-old Stavros Georgiadis, who plays racquetball on the beach of Alimos along the capital’s coast almost daily. “I don’t know if it is actually dirtier but it just looks filthier, more stuff floating on the water, I’m not going to swim in there.”

Most coastal cities, including the capital Athens, the northern port city of Thessaloniki and Patras in southwestern Greece, are said by the United Nations and the European Environment Agency to be major pollutants due to partly untreated industrial and household wastewater.

“Some areas in the bays of Athens and Thessaloniki are complete dead zones. For some, there is no chance of ever recovering,” Greenpeace Greece Director Nikos Haralambidis told Reuters.

In a joint report issued last year, the UN Environment Program and the European Environment Agency said the bay of Elefsina near Athens with about 1,000 industrial plants, including shipyards, iron and steel works and refineries, was polluted by heavy metals, among other things.

“On a scale of one to 10, I would rate their water quality somewhere in the middle,” the United Nations’ Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) coordinator Paul Mifsud told Reuters. He said while other areas of Greece may get a better rating, such as some of the islands or areas with lower population or industry accumulation, the cities’ waters are suffering from poorly treated urban and industrial wastewater.

The nearby Saronic Gulf washing the capital’s southern coastline is similarly polluted with industrial and primary treated wastewater from the city’s sewers. Many beaches have been declared off-limits for swimmers, including some along the Faliron coast some 5 kilometers from the city center.

Once known for a multitude of pristine beaches along its coast, Athens has seen many of them declared unfit for swimming as the city’s population and industrial activity grows in line with the country’s economic development in recent decades. Athens beaches are frequented mainly by local people: Tourists visit only briefly during stopovers in the capital on their way to the Aegean Islands.

Athens’s only sewage treatment plant has yet to operate fully despite repeated government pledges. It is currently not processing sewage through the full cycle, but drying and storing it until the facility is fully operational. The Environment Ministry did not return calls for comment on when the plant will be fully operating, removing chemicals and heavy metals from the processed sewage.

Greece is also staunchly backing its powerful shipping industry’s opposition to an EU directive against polluting ships. This position will grow in importance with the completion in 2009 of a Russian-Bulgarian-Greek oil pipeline that will run from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to northeastern Greece. Larger oil tankers will criss-cross the Aegean than those that can currently sail through the narrow and congested Bosporus Strait, heightening the risk of oil spills and potential environmental disasters.

The government is beginning to encourage the construction of tens of thousands of holiday homes across the country, to tap into the foreign homeowners’ market that has served countries like Spain and Portugal well over the past years. Environmental groups warn these homes will put a further strain on the country’s water pollution and its coastline. With a third consecutive year of tourism growth since the Athens 2004 Olympics, Greece will host about 17 million foreigners this year. Tourism accounts for about 18 percent of Greece’s GDP and roughly one in five jobs.

With 40 percent of the Mediterranean’s 46,000-kilometer coastline already covered in concrete, action is necessary to manage the coastal zone, Mifsud said. Greece’s coastal holiday homes projects would need to be monitored closely, Mifsud said. “If this issue is not addressed, then that (40 percent) number will be more than 50 percent in 20 years,” Mifsud said. “Definitely there are solutions to these problems but it is a question of priority,” he said. “I would say I am hopeful and the signs are there that Greece wants to address environmental issues more actively.”

Keratea to fight new landfill October 14, 2007

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Residents and officials in Keratea, eastern Attica, said yesterday that they will continue to oppose the construction of a landfill in their area and are planning to take the case to the European Court of Justice.

The Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for the construction of the landfill, which will be one of three dumps created so that Athens’s only refuse collection site in Ano Liosia can be shut down.

«We will not accept having the landfill in Keratea,» said Mayor Stavros Iatrou. The schools in the area were kept shut yesterday as a sign of protest against the court’s decision.

Work on the 20-million-euro project is expected to start in the next few days under tight police security as more protests by locals are expected.

The Municipal Council met last night to decide on further action. Eastern Attica Prefect Leonidas Kouris has given his backing to the protesters and said he will support their efforts to appeal against the Council of State’s ruling.