NEWS

Greek land drying out, deteriorating

Rising temperatures and dwindling rainfall are leading to water shortages and the increasing desertification of land in Greece, experts warned yesterday ahead of today’s World Day to Combat Desertification. Already more than a third (35 percent) of Greek land is under immediate threat of desertification (aridity and loss of fecundity, generally caused by a combination of drought and excessive agricultural exploitation), while 49 percent is likely to face that threat in the near future, according to the National Committee to Combat Desertification, set up by the Agriculture Ministry in 1996. The worst-affected regions include Crete and Thessaly, the eastern Peloponnese and certain Aegean islands. «The intensification of our use of natural resources is exhausting our land,» Costas Cosmas, professor at the Agricultural University of Athens, told Kathimerini. «Intensive agriculture, increasingly deep irrigation works and the excessive use of pesticides are leading to poor land quality, erosion and excessive salt deposits in underground water sources,» Cosmas said. Excessive grazing by farm animals also contributes to land degeneration, he added. He said that these problems could be partially countered through organic farming and linking subsidies to environmentally friendly farming practices. Meanwhile, international experts attending a seminar on climate change in Athens yesterday warned that the global trend of rising temperatures and dwindling snowfall is showing no signs of abating. Global warming is melting ice in Antarctica at a rate of 9 percent every decade, according to Professor Wei-Chyung Wang of State University of New York, Albany. «Temperatures in winter are rising and there is a drop in the number of days that it snows,» Wang told a seminar organized by the Athens Academy’s Committee for the Study of Global Change. Meanwhile, the president of the Athens Observatory stressed that countries such as China, India and the United States, which have not signed the Kyoto Protocol aimed at curbing global warming, will be responsible for more than 50 percent of all toxic gas emissions in a few years.