Minister pledges Kifissos cleanup

Factories that are polluting the Kifissos River in Athens will be relocated and any illegal constructions which are blocking the flow of the river will be torn down, Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias told Sunday’s Kathimerini. A prosecutor launched a preliminary investigation last week after Sunday’s Kathimerini revealed that factories along the river are dumping waste and rubbish into the water, which has become toxic. Souflias said that efforts to find alternative sites for the polluting factories would be stepped up. But the minister also called on courts to speed up the process by which these businesses are fined for their illegal practices. The minister’s response comes as local residents claim that the firms alongside the river are close to obtaining a 12-year permit to continue operating at their current locations. The companies also seem to be taking advantage of an apparent power vacuum, as the government argues that the Eastern Attica Prefecture has to take a more active role in preventing pollution of the Kifissos. However, Eastern Attica Prefect Leonidas Kouris said that state is to blame for not enforcing its own law. A presidential decree was issued in 1994 to protect the river, which flows from north of Athens into the Saronic Gulf, but it has had little impact on keeping it clean.