Pollution is killing lakes

It is the most valuable natural resource, but it seems we are incapable of protecting it sufficiently and, as a result, we are putting at risk people’s health and the environment. Programs have been drawn up, numerous decisions have been signed, but very little action has been taken regarding our water resources. So Greece finds itself once more before the European Court of Justice because it has not enacted a program to reduce the pollution from 99 dangerous substances. The management of urban waste is still insufficient and nothing has been done about the areas polluted by nitrates. Nevertheless, by 2008, Greece will have to have set specific goals for all its water resources and by 2015 to have taken the measures necessary to achieve them. According to framework Directive 2000/60, recently incorporated into Greek law, all water resources in the country should be in a «good ecological condition,» a definition usually determined by the range of organisms in the water. Urban waste that flows into rivers, lakes and the sea is usually rich in nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen which create the phenomenon known as eutrophy, an increase in photosynthetic organisms (such as seaweed), thereby restricting the amount of oxygen available for other organisms such as fish, which often die as a result. This results in a deterioration in the quality of the water. If one also takes into account the dangerous bacteria and viruses often carried in urban waste, it becomes clear that the water is extremely dangerous for human use. In order to protect the bodies of water that receive urban waste, Greece must draw up a list of sensitive areas and take required action. At present, only nine lakes have been designated as «sensitive» – Vegoritida, Vistonida, Volvi, Langada, Marathon, Mitriko, Paralimni Petrou and Yliki. According to a study by the water resources department of the National Technical University, the Institute for Geological and Mining Research, and KEPE, 70 percent of the lakes examined were found to be «sensitive» to eutrophy. More over, towns and settlements in these regions should have acquired, by 2000, third-stage waste treatment plants. This has not happened. A major source of pollution of both surface and underground water is agricultural effluent. Large quantities of fertilizers used without any restrictions cause nitrate pollution. The presence of more than 50 parts per million of nitrates in water has been shown to cause cancers. So far, Lake Kopaida, the plain of Argos, the Pineios River in Ileia prefecture and the plain of Thessaly have been classified as polluted by nitrates. According to the survey, however, there are more than 20 of these areas but because these waters are not used for human consumption, no attention has been paid to them.