OPINION

‘Rampant’ pollution and litter may have contributed to fall in Greece’s tourism

Having read in your paper a number of articles concerning the decreasing tourist traffic in Greece, I felt compelled to offer some comments and observations. I have visited Greece annually since 1988, both for a bit of work and a lot of pleasure. Staying here for a number of months each year, I have had the chance to see the country from Didymoteichon to Iraklion, from Rhodes to Ioannina, and to sail both the Aegean and Ionian seas from Corfu to Myconos and from Thasos to Koufonissia. One of the major disappointments that both I and my frequent foreign guests have had over the years is the wanton, rampant, uncontrolled and, most importantly, unnecessary pollution confronting us in the cities and villages, on the roadways and even in remote areas in the countryside both on the sea and in the mountains. Noise pollution, mostly emanating from satanic mopeds and motorcycles, is a veritable nightmare to people who, while on holiday, are trying to relax and revive themselves. Surely, this is a controllable factor, which over the years has remained totally out of control and ignored by the authorities. Visual pollution is another very disturbing factor. I have collected an album full of photographs (at your disposal) of various piles of trash, garbage and rubbish indiscriminately disposed of in various and unlikely places, even on the «touristy» islands of Rhodes and Myconos. I have observed time and again, people – Greek people, not foreign tourists – throwing rubbish overboard from ferries or tossing bottles out the car window and onto the roadside. It is indeed sad to see through seemingly clear waters by quaint fishermen’s wharves, old batteries, used tires, miscellaneous boat parts, even pieces of furniture decorating the sea floor. Athens and other cities, the recent Olympic spruce-up notwithstanding, are afflicted by graffiti and a dismal disarray of pasted ads and posters in the most unlikely places, from phone booths, which do not appear to have been cleaned since World War II, to walls, statues, retaining walls, fences, underpasses and a myriad other places, giving the whole area an authentic ghetto look. And I wonder if the locals are immune to such vulgarities and are used to living in a trashy environment. A massive campaign against pollution, polluting and littering must be undertaken, starting with vigorous education in the elementary schools, about things we ourselves can do. A persistent and continuous blitz from the media, over many years, not just a flash in the pan as in the past, can be very effective as well. And last but not least, the State [needs to be willing] to enforce existing laws. I see Greeks as being very patriotic about virtually every issue and [they] frequently extol the beauty of the country but, paradoxically, they constantly contribute to its defilement. Obviously, there are many reasons for the drop in the tourist trade. The various articles in your newspaper over the past summer have done a great job at analyzing them. Cleanliness is something that each and every Greek can contribute to. And not just for the tourists but also – and mostly – for the people who inhabit this beautiful but littered land. ELIAS VERNIKOS, Athens, Greece.