OPINION

Environmental hypocrisy

Environment, Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili was only stating the obvious, something that people have been claiming for two-and-a-half decades and what no government official has ever dared to say: that the Acheloos River diversion project would go ahead only if it was absolutely clear that the Thessaly Plain, for which the water is destined, has no reserves of its own. In fact, Andreas Andreadakis, general secretary for water at the ministry, has even said that it has not been ascertained that there is any water shortage in Thessaly. On the other hand, Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas insists the project will be completed within three years, referring to a campaign promise by Prime Minister George Papandreou that the government «would not let Thessaly become another Sahara.» Former Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, a native of Thessaly, also foresaw a desert there. He has been a staunch supporter of the diversion and a fierce opponent of setting up a separate Environment Ministry. All rational people who view their country as a historic, rather than vote-gathering, entity are aware of the kind of irreversible environmental catastrophe that would be created by diverting water to a plain where a valuable natural resource is wasted in being sprayed over a crop that is subsidized (for the time being) to produce low-priced, inferior-quality cotton. Doesn’t the government comprehend this? Does it realize how inconsistent and unreliable its policies seem, and how hypocritical its rhetoric about «green growth» and «the Denmark of the south» now sounds? Environmentally aware citizens have given the new government a period of grace. Papandreou even offered a position at the Environment Ministry to a member of the Ecologist Greens. Now, with the Acheloos issue, its green credibility is at risk of going down the drain.