Sunday, 2 March 2008

Dangerous Island

"Do not make the stories of your island too good, so that it will remain a nice place. Friendly greetings Marius."

I got this e-mail from a reader of this column, and he's not the first person to say this. There are other people who tell me that I should not try to make the island so popular. Because then it might become as crowded with tourists as Crete, Corfu or Rhodes.

Well, I'm not so afraid that masses of tourists will ever invade this island. For example Lesvos doesn't have such big sandy beaches as the popular destinations like Kos, Rhodes or Crete. In the north of Lesvos beaches have nasty pebbles and near Molyvos there's even a beach with depressing black stones. Before you've made yourself comfortable, the day will be finished. Those stones don't make it easy getting into the sea. Where there are stones there are sea-urchins. Those spiny balls are very dangerous. You can hurt your feet badly stepping on them and if you don't see a doctor you risk infections and if you don't tend them well, it will be the end of your holiday.

Sea-urchins are a delicacy, but most tourists are too afraid to eat them. Good, because otherwise it would become too crowded here by sea with sea-urchin collectors.

The sea is anyhow a dangerous place. Refugees drown in the waves and last week two ships collided at sea, not far from Lesvos. You wonder how it's possible for the Georgian ship 'Lady Olga' and the Turkish ship 'Ravanda' to find each other to collide in such vast expanses of sea. It was good that there was no serious damage and neither of the boats sank. That was different with the Georgian ship JoJo-A that last week sunk between Turkish Dat?a and the Greek island of Kos. From the sunken ship dangerous and polluting liquids now spill into the sea.

Not good when you just booked a vacation on an island and you can't go to the beach because a tanker just sunk. On the land it can also be dangerous. The wild fires of last year at the end August are proof of that. Lesvos escaped the big fires, but all those thousands of trees and bushes here on the island form a great danger. You'd better go to barren islands like Mykonos or Ios. There you have less fire risk.

The climate changes are also not good news for the island and all of the area. Everything will be hotter and thus dryer, so even more fire risk. According to the Turkish Daily News the region of Izmir, which is across the sea not far from Lesvos, didn't get enough rain this winter. If in the next two months there will be no more rain than in the past months, which was just like on Lesvos a few spots here and a drop there, Izmir will be facing problems this summer, just like Lesvos.

Geographically Lesvos belongs to the Asian shelf. Recently 25 million year old bones have been found in Anatolia from a rhinoceros (pre- historic animal that could weigh up to 20 tons!). Scientists see this as proof that once the European shelf, like the Arabian shelf were attached to the Asian shelf. So it used to be one big land mass with many scary animals roaming around.

The big shelf broke millions of years ago, the shelves drifted apart and those scary animals became extinct. The problem however is that those shelves secretly try to get together again, which means that we live in an area with a high risk of earthquakes. Every day the papers mention a new quake here or another there. The closest recently occurred yesterday at Samos, with a force of 4.7 on the Richter scale.

And then there live thousands of goats, sheep and donkeys on the island. They pose a danger on the roads. Well, of course in the first place it's the Greeks themselves that don't understand traffic regulations. When you round a corner you not only risk collision with a donkey in the road, but also with a Greek who has stopped his car in the middle of the road because he is chatting with some acquaintance he has seen at the other end of the road. Or you bump into a Greek who was taught that the best place to overtake another car is on a blind corner where you can play Russian roulette with the oncoming traffic.

Then there is the Lesvorian countryside which is full of plastics and other dangerous rubbish. Never let your children or pets play in the countryside here on the island. Besides rat poison many other dangerous things can be found here.

In Athens in April they hope that plastic bags will disappear from the streets. Supermarkets and other shops may only use bags that can be recycled. But Athens is far away from Lesvos and it will take many years before this rule can be applied here. And it will take some hundred years before all plastic will be gone from the Lesvorian landscape.

Here you don't smell the dump, but you see it first. When you see a slope that is full of coloured plastics, you can be sure that the dump is not far away. No gates to prevent the plastic flying all over the landscape. So the dump can seem far larger than it actually is.

In a few years the central waste disposal plant should be ready. But until then in the autumn you risk inhaling toxic fumes when the dump 'accidentally' catches fire. And don't believe that they'll come and evacuate you because those fumes are bad for your health. First of all they don't measure and secondly most Lesvorians don't even realize that those fumes are such a danger.

So you see: Lesvos is no save place for a vacation! With greetings to Marius.

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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