The recent oil spill in the Saronic Gulf continues to hamper Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s attempts to shift focus back onto growth. Conflicting views emerged from his government regarding the environmental disaster off the southern coast of Athens, while experts warned its effects would linger for several years.
Tsipras is due to head to Crete to speak in Iraklio at the latest regional conference organized by the government with the hope of discussing local infrastructure projects and investments in renewable energy. However, the coalition is struggling to escape from the damage inflicted by the sinking of a tanker off Salamina, which released some 300 tons of fuel oil into the sea, and accusations that authorities were too slow and uncoordinated in their response.
SYRIZA’s parliamentary spokesman, Nikos Xydakis, suggested in comments to Skai TV on Tuesday that the Shipping Ministry could have responded more effectively after the Agia Zoni II sank.
“I would have expected a more effective flow of information so we could have had a fuller picture in the first days,” he said, adding that a press center should have been set up after the accident.
Independent Greeks MP Thanasis Papachristopoulos courted controversy by claiming that he went for a swim in the sea off the southern Athens suburb of Voula and did not see any oil slicks. Authorities advised Athenians last week not to swim at several beaches on the city’s southern coast because of health risks.
Michalis Karidis, a marine sciences professor at the University of the Aegean, told Kathimerini it would take several months before the sea is safe for bathers again.
“I think people will be able to swim in these areas again next year, as long as the beaches have been cleaned,” he said, adding that it would take longer for marine life and the ecosystem to recover from the damage done. “From major accidents in the past, we have seen that it usually takes between three and five years for the ecosystem to recover.”