NEWS

Rubbish by the riverside and appalling stench of garbage

The Pineios River carries mounds of garbage outside Trikala, a recent visit revealed. The atmosphere was pervaded by an unpleasant odor that escalated into a stench as we approached the river. When we inquired about the source, we were informed that it was the local garbage dump. The mind boggles at the reasoning behind the choice of siting the dump alongside a watercourse referred to by Homer. At Karavoporos, right on the banks of the river as it enters the town of Trikala, the sight that meets the eyes is offensive, to say the least. Tons of garbage are piled right beside the water; tons more are summarily buried under soil. Bags hang from the branches of trees and even float along the river itself beside dead fish. «We are not the only ones,» said Deputy Mayor Apostolos Zolotas in reply to our question as to why the dump is in such an ecologically vulnerable position, polluting a river that flows through the whole of Thessaly. «The place where the Pineios has its source is full of garbage dumps. Kalambaka also tosses its garbage into the Pineios,» he said. The Trikala dump has been there for about five years. «It was there when we came. The previous government didn’t give the municipalities any money to build proper landfill sites (XYTA) so now we have become used to sights like these. It was a necessary solution. We are now building a XYTA 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside Trikala and in September we are beginning a recycling program to reduce the amount of garbage,» he added. Meanwhile, until the new site is ready at Palaiosamarina, each day about 130 tons of garbage is dumped at Karavoporos. According to Babis Mourgelas, the president of an active local group called «Friends of the Earth,» local residents as well as those from the villages of Drosero, Pigi and Parapotamos are all suffering from the stench. «In 2002, the river broke its banks and flooded the dump, sweeping away garbage as far as Larissa,» he said. For some time a committee of local residents in cooperation with Friends of the Earth has been asking that the Karavoporos dump be removed and have lodged a suit against the Municipality of Trikala which is soon to go to court. As Mourgelas pointed out, the situation has been exacerbated by the fact that many industries in the area dump their waste into the river. «This has been happening for years and no official has ever done anything about it. Every summer when the water level drops, the smell is overpowering. «Industrial authorities should ask some of the dairy industries to state what they do with the by-products from the manufacturing of cheese that are not soluble and are toxic to many organisms. No wonder we see so many dead fish in the river.» Local media have often referred to the issue. «We are talking about the Pinieos River, near the village of Nomi at Trikala, where hundreds of dead fish have been seen floating on the river,» said a commentator on the Anemos radio station. Mayor Yiannis Georgopoulos blamed itinerant fishermen who throw chemicals into the river at this time of year to kill the fish, gather them up and sell them as fresh in villages around Trikala and Karditsa. Whatever the official excuse, the Pineios is now considered the most polluted river in Greece and the second most polluted in Europe. «The municipality is supposed to be taking samples and says everything is OK. But samples we took a little while ago were terrifying. Nitrates were 10 times normal levels,» said Mourgelas.