Rocky islets could provide best solution

As parties propose long-term solutions to the problem of Psyttaleia’s treated waste, others are attempting to confuse the issue in a welter of conflicting opinions in television interviews and articles arguing against each of the solutions raised. Although we should already be preparing to permanently remove the sludge from built-up areas, we are paying another 23 million euros to transport it under police guard on hundreds of trucks through heavy traffic. All this is happening pending the submission of proposals for the construction of a dewatering plant to open after 2007 at a cost of 30 million euros. Meanwhile, local residents and municipal authorities will, one hopes, not take recourse to the European Court of Justice, nor will further disputes arise between residents and political officials in the 2006 local elections. What could happen if a political decision is made on the basis of a political will to ensure the proper management of the daily lives of Attica’s 4.5 million residents? We propose the transportation of Psyttaleia’s sludge on barges to the islet of Velopoula (otherwise known as Parapola) in the Myrtoo Sea, 65 miles from Pireaus. This privately owned islet with an area of about 220 hectares lies within the jurisdiction of the prefecture of Athens and would provide a place to transport Athens’s waste for 20 years. The sludge would be spread over the surface of the islet in isolated layers. Then it would evaporate and be broken down by the wind and sun, reducing its volume by about 35 percent. It would dry out and compost into organic humus which could be used as soil for planting trees across half of the islet and later provide fertile material for other islets and the neighboring Cyclades islands. To think that we import material like this from abroad for our houseplants… With deep waters similar to those around the island of Hydra, the islet is not in need of any major port construction, since the barges will be able to dock alongside floating marinas anchored to the shore. The sludge will be unloaded by bulldozers onto a conveyor belt and spread in layers 1 meter thick. The Halkis Water and Sewage Company implemented this solution in a pilot program over two years on a nearby islet. The composted sludge produced now covers the islet which is planted with trees. At Palm Beach in the USA, an enlightened businessman filled part of a lagoon with garbage, creating an islet which he named Naples, now an upmarket neighborhood. We could also solve what is a serious problem for Athens and Attica in general, under continuous technical and scientific monitoring, by implementing a pilot program for the sustainable ecological improvement of our islets. (1) Nikolas Vernikos is professor of human ecology at the Aegean University and adviser to the Athens Prefecture’s Committee for Town Planning, Public Works and the Environment.

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