Almost a year after it suffered a major ecological disaster that left thousands of birds dead, Lake Koroneia near Thessaloniki was set on the road to recovery yesterday as the government gave its approval to cleanup plans for the area. The government’s decision yesterday to back the program unveiled by local authorities in July is likely to be a major factor in convincing the European Union to release some 30 million euros from the Cohesion Fund to help cover the cost of the projects. Brussels is thought to have been apprehensive about loosening its grip on the funds as several plans to upgrade Koroneia in the past have fallen by the wayside. The government, however, has now given its full backing to the work. «The environmental terms [of the project] which have been approved propose the restoration of the lake to its previous state, the strengthening of its biodiversity and an improvement of the quality of its waters,» said Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias. «The ultimate goal is for the environment in the whole of the Migdonia basin, where Lake Koroneia is located, to be fully restored and become self-sufficient,» he added. At least 29 species of birds died at the lake last September and people were warned to stay away from the area after the neurotoxin-producing Clostridium botulinum bacterium was detected. Experts said that heavy pollution in the lake meant the bacteria multiplied much faster than usual. If the project to restore Lake Koroneia, located some 20 kilometers east of Thessaloniki, goes ahead, it will be one of the biggest of its type to be conducted in Greece. Plans include the construction of a drainage system linking it to Lake Volvi, a few kilometers to its east. Koroneia currently measures some 3,500 hectares in area and the project aims to maintain this surface area while also creating a protected wetland of some 380 hectares in area.