Increase in diseases and fewer jobs

Between the towns of Kozani and Ptolemaida, situated at either end of the plain, the lignite mines and thermoelectric plants are close to the villages of Pontokomi, Mavropigi, Kleitos, Akrini, Aghios Dimitrios, Drepano, Komanos, Nea Kardia and Kila. Residents of another five villages have been resettled because of the lignite mines. The environmental effects of the industry are both visible and tangible in these villages. The snow is covered in black ash, which you can pick up in your hand. Incidences of heart and respiratory diseases as well as cancers have increased, according to studies by the Kozani state hospital and the Theagenio Cancer Hospital in Thessaloniki. Nevertheless, the relationship between local residents and PPC has evolved over 50 years to the point where the locals want the industry and the jobs it provides but also demand that the company respect the environment. «The atmosphere has completely deteriorated,» said Kyriakos Portokalidis of Mavrodendri. «How can a person live here? It’s full of disease, and unemployment is skyrocketing.» «Since PPC rules out any other kind of development, it should favor local residents when recruiting staff, but this has not happened since 1993,» said Tassos Emmanouil, a member of an informal association in Mavropigi, a village of 1,000 inhabitants with about 150 unemployed youths aged 18-40. «We are guinea pigs in a kind of energy industry concentration camp,» said Vangelis Emmanouilidis, representative of the Pontokomi Association for the Environment and Quality of Life. «Fewer and fewer of us are staying on here.» The association is calling for the resettlement of its inhabitants as the Kardia electricity plant and the expanded lignite mine lie only a kilometer away. However, Ptolemaida’s mayor, Grigoros Tsioumaris, begs to differ, claiming that winds sweep the atmosphere clear of pollution. He said the municipality had received an award from the non-governmental organization Ecocity for its implementation of teleheating (remote heating). «The use of teleheating has reduced annual emissions of carbon dioxide by 24,500 tons.»