Danger on Mt Hymettus
Residents of the eastern Athens suburbs of Ilioupolis and Argyroupolis are up in arms about the Public Power Corporation’s (PPC) construction of a Super High-Tension Center (KYT) on nearby Mt Hymettus. The KYT installation is being built on a plot of land owned by PPC (which Professor T. Papadopoulos says was granted to the corporation in 1967 by the military junta in power at the time), and which is sited within the second protection zone on the mountain. In 1998, the Council of State had ruled in connection with a previous ministerial decree about high-tension cables that this would be «incompatible with protecting and restoring the ecological balance on Mt Hymettus.» The PPC property is part of a broader zone scheduled for, but always excluded from, reforestation. In complete disregard of public opinion, PPC is planning to pour tons of concrete onto the foothills of the mountain, spoiling the environment and cutting off the last means of access to the mountain available to local residents. According to PPC’s own figures, the buildings will cover a total 1,250 square meters, reach a height of 8.5 meters and are of a total volume of 4,400 cubic meters. Health concerns There are grave concerns for local residents’ health. The center will receive 400,000 volts from Lavrion and, when fully operational, will be producing 1120 MVA. The center is on the outskirts of a residential area, literally right next to homes, and just a few dozen meters from a school and a kindergarten which opened just this year. PPC itself admitted in a document that the KYT would be only 125 meters from the Ilioupolis school and even closer to homes in Argyroupolis. Of course, PPC, as well as the Environment and Public Works Ministry that approved the project, believe that these distances are satisfactory, believing 100 meters away a safe distance. However, many scientists believe this to be inadequate, as newer epidemiological studies indicate that at even farther ranges, electromagnetic radiation emitted by high-tension cables can cause damage to the human body, including diseases such as cancer, a weakened immune system, increased risk of miscarriages and other problems. Even a March 10, 1994 decision by the Central Health Council, on which PPC based its limits, notes that «there are many unknown factors regarding the influence of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation on human beings and experience from similar problems in the range of ionizing radiation has shown that in the past few decades the permissible safety limits have increased.» «A few years ago, the safety distance from a high-tension line was 50 meters, now it is set at 200 meters. We could say that in a few years time it will increase to 500 or 1,000 meters,» said Professor C. Soukoulis of the Technology and Research Foundation of Crete in a message to the residents’ committee. Soukoulis said the project was destructive «to humans and the environment.» It is common knowledge that the concept of limits is extremely relative and depends not only on ongoing developments in scientific research, but the continual tug of war between economic efficiency and safeguarding people’s health and the environment. The outcome depends on the environmental awareness of society, a society which appears to be waking up. Both PPC and the ministry have responded to the protests by insisting on the need for the project and on their inability to find another solution. ‘Common good’ Meanwhile, the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, speaking in support of PPC before the Council of State, claimed that «in weighing the interests in this case, the public and national interest served by the project should be considered paramount.» By this, of course, it meant the Olympic Games. It is true that the KYT at Ilioupolis is destined to supply power to several Olympic venues, but local residents are asking whether there is any higher public interest than their health, welfare and the environment.