U.S. Water News Online
ATHENS, Greece-- Wasteful farming practices and booming
tourism are stretching Greece's water resources and threatening a
third of the country's land with lasting damage, experts and
government officials warned.
"It is not necessary to use so much water," said Ilias Mariolakos,
a professor of geology at Athens University of Athens.
"It is easier to protect what we have now than ... recover what we
had," he said in remarks prepared for the start of a three-day
conference on water management in Greece and other southeast European
Some 35 percent of the country is in danger of land damage through
drought, largely because of wasteful irrigation, according to the
World Wide Fund for Nature.
In a July report cited at the conference, the WWF said 85 percent
of Greek water consumption is by agriculture -- with most of the
water squandered through irrigation losses or used on demanding crops
The WWF and other conservation groups are fighting a government
proposed project to divert water from the Acheloos River, the
country's second largest river in western Greece, to the central
farming belt. The project has been blocked for years by legal
challenges to the Council of State, the country's highest
Anastasia Lazarou-Bakali, a representative of the Environment
Ministry, acknowledged Greece's water management problems and said
the government hoped to ease difficulties by renegotiating agreements
with neighboring Macedonia and Bulgaria to increase supplies from
cross border rivers.
"Greece has certain peculiarities," Lazarou-Bakali said. "We need
(new) bilateral agreements with other countries."
Experts also warned that tourism, a vital industry in Greece
attracting some 14 million visitors annually, is also causing serious
shortages on Greek islands, with many resorts relying on tanker
shipments from the mainland to keep up with demand.
Some 30 Aegean Sea islands are facing serious supply problems,
with half of them depending on shipments.
Tourism accounts for around 18 percent of Greece's gross domestic
product. The Athens conference was being organized by several
government ministries and the Association of Greek Chemists, with
support from the United Nations Environment Program.
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