Greece to miss clean water target

Greece will not make the European Union deadline for the protection of its waters against pollution, the country?s environment minister said Tuesday, and the debt-ridden country looks set to be taken to the European Court of Justice as a result.

Introduced in 2000, the EU?s water framework directive was designed to clean up pollution in rivers, lakes, groundwater and coastal seas across the bloc. The directive laid out a timetable for action, with 2015 set as the target date for cleaning up European water sources to acceptable standards.

Speaking yesterday on World Water Day at a conference organized by the Athens Water and Sewage Company (EYDAP), Environment Minister Tina Birbili admitted that Greece is falling way behind target. The Socialist minister said the country will need an additional five years to meet EU requirements.

?Fulfilling the demands of the directive for good ecological and chemical status of water by 2015 is unlikely,? Birbili said, instead describing the year 2020 as ?a more realistic? date.

Speaking at the same conference, Andreas Andreadakis, who is the government?s special secretary for water, admitted to delays in implementing an integrated management of resources. ?Plans for the management of river basins should have been in place since 2009,? Andreadakis said, predicting a minimum two-year lag.

Failure to install the EU?s water-monitoring programs in time could invite a new tide of infringement proceedings by the European Commission, which has in the past charged Greece with breaching the bloc?s environmental laws.

Greece is one of the driest countries in Europe. Agriculture, which consumes about 85 percent of reserves, is the main drain on resources. Instead of increasing supply, Birbili said, the country?s efforts must concentrate on curbing demand. ?Current consumption trends and losses, disregard for the reuse and recycling [of water], and [the insistence on] water-intensive crops can no longer be taken for granted,? Birbili said.

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