Acheloos diversion hits new court snag

Greece’s most environmentally controversial major public works project has run into a new, and possibly crucial, court block, according to sources quoted yesterday. The plan to divert the waters of the Acheloos River in western Greece, the country’s second-longest, to the heavily farmed plain of Thessaly was launched in the 1980s during Andreas Papandreou’s PASOK administration. But it encountered strong opposition, both from groups concerned about the project’s repercussions on the environment and the fact that several important historic buildings would be submerged, as well as from local authorities in western Greece who were horrified at the prospect of having the river’s waters siphoned off elsewhere. Court sources were quoted yesterday as saying that the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, has rejected the latest bid to get the project unstuck from a legal mire that had kept it bogged down for years. The court is understood to have ruled against the project on the grounds that the Public Works Ministry pressed ahead again with the diversion in 2003 without first studying its potential repercussions on Greece’s overall water resources management system. As a result, serious questions emerge as to the project’s viability. Although first floated as an idea in 1925, the attempt to reroute the river’s waters to Thessaly only took off in the early 1990s. The idea is to divert some 600 million cubic meters of water a year to the increasingly water-hungry plain. Since then, extensive work, worth nearly 300 million euros, has been carried out, but completion still appears a distant – if at all realistic – prospect. The court’s decision is expected to be officially announced within the next month.