OPINION

New challenges, new expectations

new-challenges-new-expectations

Almost a year has passed since Samos was struck by a big earthquake. In many of the villages that were hit by the 7 Richter temblor, there are damaged houses that look ready to collapse into the narrow streets with their traffic and pedestrians. It’s easy to spot the dangers of any new seismic activity. Despite the announcements made by the officials responsible for the pressing issue of the unsteady buildings, the particularly slow bureaucratic procedures have not been simplified and demolitions have not moved ahead.

A few months have passed since the earthquake in Thessaly that left hundreds of condemned buildings in its wake. There, too, developments are slow, and many families in the villages of Elassona and Tyrnavos are still living out of containers. 

In the regional unit of Karditsa they are not so much worried about an earthquake as they are about the risks of extreme weather. The scars left behind by Cyclone Ianos have not yet healed and the locals are complaining about delays in the promised flood protection earthworks and barriers. Then there is Crete, tried by the September 27 earthquake. There are many problems in Arkalochori and lots of damage.

I am not trying to create a register of recent natural disasters here. The challenges are known. On the one hand, no one can deny the fact that Greece is an earthquake-prone country, that there have been and will be earthquakes; on the other hand, climate change has created new threats, such as lethal forest fires and destructive flooding. 

That means the way to manage all these threats cannot be based on older models; it requires new ways of thinking, new policies, and a redesign of all stages both prior to and after the event. Efthymios Lekkas, professor of geology and natural disaster management and president of the Organization for Anti-Seismic Planning and Protection (OASP), said recently, “We must update our plans for the area surrounding Thiva, where seismic activity has been ongoing for approximately four months, based on the needs that surfaced in Crete.” He added that “the municipalities in the region must have updated everything foreseen by the plans and all the involved authorities must be ready.”

The professor is not fearmongering, noting something very important and giving us food for thought. Are the pre-emptive plans and actions being updated by the relevant authorities? Is there a list of problems, predictions and constant updates? Or are the government mechanisms running up and down Greece trying to fix problems wherever they appear?

The challenges and expectations are huge. There is no time to waste. Pre-emptive planning and a readiness to face natural disasters are the most efficient tools we possess.