Acheloos causes division

The controversial decision by the government to persist with the diversion of Greece’s second-longest river appears to have pitted the two communities that will be affected by the project against each other as more protests against the scheme were held in western Greece yesterday. The regional council of western Greece met yesterday to discuss the government’s plans, which have been the subject of intense debate in Parliament this week. Local politicians were united in their disapproval of the project. «Neither New Democracy, PASOK or the Communist party have the right to vote in favor of the diversion when the Council of State has already ruled against it five times and there are such huge environmental consequences,» said Efthymios Sokos, the mayor of Agrinio. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias recently decided to proceed with the huge engineering project to divert the Acheloos River in western Greece to the heavily farmed plain of Thessaly despite the rulings of the Council of State. Greece’s highest administrative court ruled last April that the project should be canceled due to the lack of a complete plan and the absence of proper assessment of its effects on Greece’s overall water resources. People from the prefecture of Aitoloacarnania in western Greece gathered yesterday at a bridge near the Acheloos delta, holding signs that read «Constitutional diversion» and «Parliamentary coup» to display their opposition to the project. In Thessaly, however, the project has the backing of local politicians, where the local council said it was a «serious and scientifically sound intervention… which aims to prevent an environmental disaster in the plain of Thessaly.» Mayor of Trikala Michalis Tamikos said the river would only have to be diverted when Thessaly was in real need of the water. He encouraged people from Aitoloacarnania to help find a solution and suggested the creation of a body made up of representatives of both communities which would decide how much water to divert. Tamikos said that farmers in Larissa were drilling 400 meters deep for water which is likely to have been polluted by nitrates from fertilizers. However, the Mediterranean SOS network and WWF environmentalist groups yesterday called on Souflias to abandon his plans to move ahead with the diversion of the Acheloos.