Demonstration supporting Patras quarry hints at changing times

A demonstration against companies whose activities affect the environment have become rather routine events in Greece. So this makes a demonstration in favor of a firm – especially when its activities are unpopular – both interesting and indicative of changes in society. Consider the following recent news story about a protest in Patras: «Workers in the Araxos quarries and others employed in the construction industry staged a protest march in the center of Patras on Friday, demanding the reopening of the quarry,» the story says. «The mobilization, which included trucks and other heavy equipment, headed for the headquarter of the prefectural and regional authorities, which the demonstrators asked for their intervention. The event caused a serious traffic problem in the center of the city, ending in late afternoon. «The issue with the quarries arose after the rejection of the environmental effects study but also due to a recent law on antiquities which prohibits quarrying operations in proximate sites. The Araxos quarry is near a prehistoric acropolis dating back to 3,000 BC.» Besides being unusual, the demonstration highlighted once again the important issue of environmental effect studies in general. The way the present system works, in reality neither the environment is protected nor is the investment activity facilitated. Some formalities are met but in practice they establish lawless behavior. Besides, the lack of planning, including environmental protection, is widespread. The regulations prohibit various activities, including construction in the name of protecting an ambiguous forested area, archaeological finds or the migratory routes of rare bird. In theory, we are a country with strict laws on environmental protection. In practice, no prohibition is observed; illegal buildings in the countryside are started almost at will and the crime is completed some time later, when a government is forced to deal with the problem by legalizing all the buildings erected without a permit. In the meantime, no one cares about the destruction of flora, the effects on fauna or the disturbance of any antiquities. Besides, even if someone builds lawfully and is unfortunate enough to stumble upon antiquities, he is in trouble. Instead of the authorities facilitating him by expediting the necessary excavations or buying the land at a reasonable price, the property is impounded for an indefinite time. The Patras demonstration is a sign of progress. Ways can be found to effectively combine environmental protection with development.