NEWS

Dried lake on a dam by a forestry official; vet lab serves animals, but not as planned

At the beginning of 1997, the Central Macedonia Region, in correspondence with the Agriculture Ministry’s Directorate for the Protection of Forests and Natural Resources, raised doubts over approval for a dam (on a seasonal river, the Morniotikos) «without a prior environmental impact study.» The directorate soothed away fears and gave the green light for the work, without the aforesaid study – though the lack of environmental-impact surveys was perhaps one of the most serious reasons, in Greece at any rate, for Community funding being refused for works. Both EU and Greek legislation prohibit projects from receiving funding if they have not had environmental studies approved first. Nonetheless the Agriculture Ministry, in September 1997, published a circular which said: «For forest works surveyed and constructed by the Forestry Service, the provisions of law 1650/1986 (on the environment) and joint ministerial decision 69269/5387/85 (concerning environmental permits) do not apply.» While this might seem reasonable when it comes to forest tracks, that surely is not the case for a dam 23 meters high, such as the Morniotikos. What happens then, quite simply, is this: Community funding is lost. If the project has been paid for out of the public purse, the lost millions weigh on the budget and all Greek citizens. Superficial treatment In mid-1995, Central Macedonia’s general secretary notified bodies responsible for regional, Community-funded programs (PEP) that «technical reports were not necessary.» However, not only was the dam built without technical reports but a forestry official was placed in charge of the work, instead a civil engineer as required by law. Earning a sum in the process that was by no means to be sneezed at, the forest warden was called upon to inspect studies on concrete structures and water pipes. The Finance Ministry’s inspection report said: «This gave birth to questions… about the work’s sustainability and durability.» In September 2002, the picture that met the team that inspected the dam was one to render anyone speechless. No one knew where the work was exactly, nor in what state it was in. And when the team finally located the dam, they found a dried-up riverbed 20 meters deep, at the end of which was the barrier. This meant the river no longer supplied the surrounding vegetation with water. Yet another damning indictment of the superficiality with which both Community funding and environmental sensitivities are treated is that the area had been incorporated into the European network Natura 2000. Moreover, the report says: «Although the adverse impact of the work was all too clear (aesthetic degradation, ecosystem disruption, etc.), [the authorities] undertook no action to restore the disturbed environmental order. On the contrary (in March 2002) there was a collective attempt, in collaboration with the prefecture, to expand this environmentally unfriendly activity.» No takers The other work in Central Macedonia, the Kilkis Veterinary Laboratory, was a pet project of the Agriculture Ministry and – in particular – of the ministry’s general secretary, whose roots are in the area. Begun in 1994, the project was completed in 1996. Since then, the building has remained empty. Correspondence between the respective organizations, which tossed around the answer to the question: «Who will take this building?» has little interest to recommend it. The only detail, which encapsulates all the charges made against state services, is the following: To the protest made by the Veterinary Directorate of Kilkis, which refused to take over the building in 1997 «because of its many shortcomings and deficiencies,» the Agriculture Ministry responded the following year by setting up a committee. This found that «all the works had been carried out in accordance with the contract and the rules of construction.» The building still found no takers. It was fated, therefore, to present this picture to the team of inspectors in September 2002. «The surroundings have been left to their fate, with rusting railings, weeds and wild grasses running riot, half-broken gates with locks that refused to yield to the keys made for them. «Despite all efforts, and in spite of the shattered windows and perforated, half-ruined doors, it was not possible for the inspectors to enter the building. «Unfortunately, that was not true of birds, rodents and reptiles.»