Focus turns to environment

Bids to save endangered sea turtles and to encourage greater use of public transport and respect for the environment were given the backing of the government yesterday in a series of events to mark World Environment Day. Efforts to protect the habitat of the endangered loggerhead turtles, or Carreta caretta, on the Ionian island of Zakynthos are being urgently stepped up, Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said. Souflias visited the Dafni and Gerakas beaches yesterday, which are part of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. Every year between May and July, Zakynthos is home to 1,100 turtle nests. The peak of the island’s tourist season coincides with the start of hatching. The European Union has pressured Greece to do more to protect the area and Souflias said that a 1.2-million-euro program has already begun to control the number of people that visit the beaches. A 24-hour watch will also be kept on the area by 40 guards. Gates have been set up on the roads leading to the two beaches and they will close at 7 p.m. every day. Authorities are also thinking about charging visitors 1 euro to access the beach. Souflias said that a number of illegal structures had been torn down and that a limit had been set on the number of sun umbrellas that could be placed on the beach. The owners of 13 illegal buildings on Dafni beach have signed an agreement to cooperate in the protection of the sea turtle, the minister said. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Michalis Liapis encouraged Athenians to ditch their cars and use public transport. He said that public transport used four times less energy per passenger compared to cars. At Syntagma metro station, Liapis unveiled the first hydrogen-powered four-seater car manufactured in Greece and said that a hydrogen-powered bus would also be constructed here soon. Leaflets were also handed out at 30 points around the city, encouraging drivers to leave their cars at home.

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