NEWS

Greece’s lakes are protected on paper only

Greece?s lakes are supposedly protected by myriad international protocols and networks, presidential decrees and ministerial decision, but when it comes down to the day-to-day business of keeping the country?s lakes clean and healthy, not much is happening at all.

In fact, according to Maria Moustaka, a biology professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, there is little if any information available on at least 20 of Greece?s 50 lakes, although an Environment Ministry program is set to begin in 2012 — five years behind schedule — to make a complete register of Greece?s lakes, with all of their characteristics.

For years, Greece has been in violation of the European Commission?s Water Framework Directive, which requires all EU member states to clean up their lakes by 2015. The country has failed to draw up a strategy for achieving the European Union target, including taking steps for pollution prevention and control or rehabilitation.

The most glaring example of this neglect is the sorry state of Koroneia Lake in the prefecture of Thessaloniki, over which Greece has been taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to make use of EU funding for the lake?s rehabilitation and continuing to ignore its responsibilities for protecting a significant wetland.

Runoff from fertilizers and pesticides, overirrigation in agriculture, and the dumping of urban and industrial waste are the main causes behind the degradation of Greece?s lakes.

From Vistonida to the Prespa lakes, and from Doirani to Karla, not one of the country?s 15 big inland water bodies can be described as healthy, according to research conducted by teams from the Aristotle University, while their concerns about the levels of cyanobacteria and the cyanotoxins they produce have met with little response on a national or local government level.

In some cases, such as that of Kastoria Lake, the researchers found that scientists working for the government know less about the lake today than they did, say, 10 years ago, meaning that systematic research is another problem that needs to be addressed.

According to Moustaka, who led one of the most recent research missions, ?it looks like little can be done to rehabilitate Doirani, because its waters are not renewed as much as is needed. There is no data available for the Prespa lakes, while small improvements have been observed in Kastoria Lake and Vegoritida.?

The study also found that Greece?s healthiest inland body of water right now is Plastira, an artificial lake in Karditsa, central Greece.