Desertification eating away at Greek landscape

As World Desertification Day (June 17) came and went, Greece has taken few steps to tackle the phenomenon of desertification which is rendering its soils unfit for production. Forty-seven percent of the Earth’s land surface is vulnerable to the phenomenon, threatening the continued survival of 1 billion people in approximately 100 countries. In Greece, one-third of the land is at risk of turning into desert, as soil becomes impoverished, loses its fertility and eventually becomes totally barren. Tackling the phenomenon is becoming an imperative need as soil is essential to life on Earth. According to the map drawn up by the National Committee against Desertification, 33.25 percent of endangered territory is at risk as a result of soil erosion. Of this, 49.76 percent can be characterized as medium-risk and 15.17 percent as low risk. High-risk areas include Crete, the Aegean Islands, Thessaloniki and eastern Central Greece, the Peloponnese and Thessaly. There are many reasons for desertification, which is why measures are difficult to take. Over-exploitation of the soil, depleted water resources, reckless use of agricultural chemicals, illegal building, deforestation and development without respect for the environment all play their part. Drought, erosion, landslides, infertile soil and floods are only some of the obvious consequences. As Michalis Modinos, president of the National Center for the Environment and Sustainable Development (EKPAA) told Kathimerini: «Desertification is a slow and stealthy process. The National Committee has drawn up a plan of action, but to tackle the phenomenon, there has to be coordinated action.» While the necessary steps have been taken on the level of institutions and legislation, little has been done in practice.