OPINION

Hope for the future

Sewage treatment plants are the hope for the future of the Greek environment. Since the early 1990s – and even shortly before then – when their installation began here following pressure from the European Union, tens of billions of drachmas from national and EU sources have been spent on building these plants around the country. Just how valuable they are is apparent even just by looking at the Saronic Gulf, where the water quality has greatly improved, despite the fact that at the Psyttaleia plant, the degree of cleansing carried out stands at 33-40 percent. However, when the second phase is completed, which it is hoped to be by next spring, this will increase to 90 percent. Unfortunately, although the results are generally regarded as being spectacular, one-third of the units already built are not in operation and another third are not functioning at full capacity. As a result, only one in three sewage treatment plants is fulfilling its purpose. This is either because of deficiencies or design changes, or, more frequently, because the plants are poorly maintained – either due to a lack of funds for the purpose or a lack of knowledge or interest on the part of the municipal staff responsible. The lack of a central, coordinating and monitoring authority has only made things worse. Liquid waste units in hotels and other businesses are likely to prove even more problematic, as inspections are rare and sloppy, leaving it up to the owners’ sense of responsibility. It is time that this sorry state of affairs, the result of mistakes and negligence on the part of the various organizations involved, was dealt with in an organized fashion. In places where these sewage treatment plants are functioning properly, progress has been impressive and the results have benefited not only the State but private interests. Wherever the potential is still unexploited, the environment is deteriorating. Not only is the ecological balance being undermined, but so is the future of the local economy. It is the duty of everyone – the State, local government and private businesses – to set in motion immediately a program to repair these plants, get them all working and have more set up. Our country’s future depends on its sewage treatment plants. It is our duty to defend them.