Shameful neglect

At the beginning of next month our country faces its second indictment in the European Court for polluting the Bay of Elefsina and for consistently violating its obligation to construct an irrigation network and waste processing plant on the Thracian Plain. It is almost certain that we will face heavy fines unless the committee reconsiders or the construction projects are miraculously ready to go out to tender by then (a rather unlikely eventuality as our endemic procrastination threatens fresh delays). Meanwhile, we have a situation where four municipalities accommodating 120,000 residents are producing 25,000 cubic meters of unprocessed waste per day. Thousands of households are relying on cesspools while hundreds of businesses make do with waterwagons. The end result is the dangerous pollution of our underground water sources and the discharge of waste into the Bay of Elefsina, a site which the Greek state has classified as a «sensitive area» and which it has committed to upgrade but which has yet to change. And as if liquid waste were not enough, we also have problems with our dry refuse – in the form of another indictment for two landfills, one in Ano Liosia and another in Pera Galina. The sad truth is that our country has been ravaged by pollution, in various forms, for years. And although it had promised the EC to solve these problems by the end of 1999, it has yet to make good on its pledge. Now we risk reliving the nightmare of Kouroupitos, a Cretan dump for which we had been obliged to pay a daily fine of 20,000 euros until March 2001 when we were granted an extension after pledging to find a solution; this pledge, however, was simply tacked onto the back of a long list of similar promises that Greece is dragging behind it as it faces a 2008 deadline when 1,400 landfills illegally operating in provincial Greece are due to close. However, our rates of progress are depressingly slow and it is difficult to remain optimistic in the knowledge that one in four landfills were created in the two years that Greece was being taken to account for those already in existence.