Ecosystems in trouble

Already troubled ecosystems in northern Greece may be headed for a downward spiral if the government does not take steps to protect nature’s sensitive balances in areas such as the Axios River, environmental experts said. Environmentalists, scientists and professors say that, with the right policies, the government can help transform the region into ecological havens that can attract environmentally conscious tourists. In central Macedonia, the heavy pollution is creating problems on top of existing water shortages. «It is the second poorest region in water resources after Attica and the needs of water are partly covered by drawing on resources from western Macedonia,» Evangelos Baltas, a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, told a recent conference on the environment. Due to heavy pollution in the area, water from rivers such as the Axios, which starts from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and runs through Greece into the Aegean, is not of any use even if heavily treated, environmental experts explained. «The average annual gathering of waste from pesticides make it impossible to use the water for drinking purposes,» said a report from the Aristotle University. Experts said that they are trying to avoid a repeat of the ecological disaster at Lake Koroneia, where polluted waters have killed almost 30,000 birds. Greece’s environmental record falls well short of many other countries. According to sources, Greece ranks 36th of 133 countries in an environmental performance list put together by the EU. Experts said the sources of pollution at the Axios River include waste sewage from city centers, pesticide production factories and slaughterhouses. Environmentalists have suggested that Greece set up an international team to supervise the area. On the positive side, the ecosystem on the Nestos River is seeing some benefits thanks to the protection offered by the EU’s LIFE environment program, which aims to restore the region’s natural wealth.