Sunday, 20 July 2008

Zero nero

Good water housekeeping is not the strongest side of Greece. First of all not all Greek rivers are clean, and then Greeks have no idea how to handle reservoirs or water supplies.

The polluted Asopo River in Aticca (Southern Greece) was in the news more than once last winter. The little town of Oinofyta, that depends on the water of the Asopo, only recently realised the link between the polluted water and its high number of residents with cancer. Ten years ago this Asopo River even ran purple water! (I must say I once saw the river in Melinda (close to Plomari) also letting its purple water flow into the sea). Last week the municipality of Oinofyta was fined by the Union for Quality and Greek Drinking Water (EKPOIZO), because they were unable to provide the little village of Dilesi (6000 inhabitants) with clean water. This means that the Asopo River is still polluted.

I've no idea if they monitor the rivers here on Lesvos, but I know for sure that the river running past Vatoussa stinks like hell and when walking along its beautiful banks, you're forced to hold your nose!

Lesvos has two reservoirs and neither works. The one at Molyvos (a little outside town, on the right of the road going to Vafios) has been working for a few years, but since it was leaking until emptiness, nobody knew how to repair it (or didn't want to). Last spring the municipality even decided that the collected rainwater in the basin had to go, so they opened some taps and for days some roads were flooded and nobody thought to close them for the dry season.

The reservoir in Plomari (high in the mountains when you go upstream of the Sedounda) never worked. The people of Plomari think they can do without it, they always did, and they refuse to spend more money on the basin that was nearly ready to function. Last summer however Plomari was the first municipality where watering flowers, cars, streets and balconies was forbidden.

I think the Plomarians and Molyvorians better take a good look at the tragedy that unfolds on Cyprus. Last winter Cyprus didn't get any substantial rain and even though they all prayed for rain, nothing came and the island faces a very serious drought. This spring they made plans to save Cyprus: 8 million cubic metres of water had to be transported by ship to Cyprus to fulfil all water requirements (cost: 43 million euros). Two weeks ago the first 40,000 cubic metres of water arrived by tanker in Cyprus. But then the pipeline from-ship-to-shore happened to be a few metres too short! Ooops! Today the tanker is still there with all its water. And the water? It stinks! The authorities say that the water can still be filtered, but the Cypriots, however in need of water they are, don't want it.

The Turkish part of Cyprus in the north is facing the same problem. The Turkish government has decided to build a pipeline for water from the mainland of Turkey to Cyprus next year. They even offered water to their neighbours (peace water), but until now they didn't respond to this offer.

The most curious water pollution happened last week in Anavysos (East- Aticca). Dead birds were found along the shore and after research the birds were found to have died of arsenic poisoning. Small amounts of arsenic in the seawater can kill seabirds, people risk cancer. How come there is arsenic in the water? It might be from an illegal dump or from a leaking rubbissh dump, which is so common in Greece. However, it maybe that in this case the Greeks are not to blame and the arsenic got into the water because of splitting rocks. The area near Anavysos is known for its silver mines and where you find silver, generally you'll also find chlorine, lead, sulphur and arsenic.

It is interesting to think about this. My opinion is that swimming in the sea is very healthy. And if you can prove that the seawater also contains a lot of special minerals, swimming in the sea will be even more attractive. Lesvos is rich with many hot springs that are full of chlorine, calcium, magnesium, boron and lithium and it is a little radioactive (so little that it is no danger to health). It is said that a bath in a hot spring on the island helps people with diseases like arthritis, rheumatism, skin diseases, bronchitis and gynaecologic infections. I presume that a little of those minerals will flow into the sea, which makes the sea around Lesvos very healthy. There is no silver found on the island, so no danger of arsenic (by the way, the prohibition to swim in the sea at Anavysos has been cancelled).

Most beaches on Lesvos are filled with pebbles, some of which have pretty bright colours, which means that they contain some minerals. So lying on these stones will also be good for your health. I start to understand why some people think that this island has magic powers...

Most Greeks think that swimming in a pool is quite unhealthy with all the chemicals and people in it. Lots of tourists just lounge the whole day round the swimming pool of their hotel, because they hate the pebble beaches and think that the sea is dangerous and cold. They don't know what they are missing. Seawater anyway is good for your skin and when the sea is as flat as a mill pond, it's one huge pool where you have all the space in the world to play around. When there is wind, you have a wave pool for free. And here on the Greek islands we certainly have no shortage of seawater...

Copyright © Smitaki 2008

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