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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Grèce : le projet "Biomasse" menace l’équilibre écologique

by Eugenie Barbezat

Greece : The “Biomass” project threatens the ecological balance

Translated Thursday 2 April 2015, by Adrian Jordan

In northern Greece, around 20 km east of Thessaloniki, on land owned by ex-minister for energy, George Salagoudis (Nea Dimokratia ), planned construction of two electric power stations, run on gas from biomass, is causing a dilemma.

Supported by their mayors, the citizens of neighbouring towns Thermi and Vassiliki, are mobilising in order to get the project abandoned. They are holding public meetings to inform the people and put pressure on politicians and the administration who granted permission in a “lax” manner.

Facing them are those who take the line in favour of profit and the enticement of employment, a non-negligible argument when the unemployment rate is over 30%...

However the fact that the future plants would be less than 200m from homes, schools and playgrounds scares the residents, even those tempted by the jobs.

As for the farmers, ranchers and shepherds, they stand firmly against it, as the quality of their produce will be threatened. In fact the region is reputed for its vegetables and dairy produce (notably cheeses) which are sold across the country and also exported.

Besides, the vegetable waste necessary for the functioning of the plants (particularly sawdust) is not sufficiently available in the region which implies it would have to be imported, notably from Bulgaria. It would be transported by truck, giving environmental concerns over the impact on air quality and the state of the roads, already greatly deteriorated...

In the end the economic argument does not hold as the development of the entire region could truly be affected in the long term if the earth, air and water are polluted.

In the coming weeks, a metropolitan commission must decide on environmental impact studies which do not favour the project, carried out by the Environmental Engineering Laboratory AUTH of the University of Thessaloniki; although the advice of the commission is only for guidance and the final decision will be taken by the decentralised administration of Macedonia and Thrace.

Greek member of parliament for Chalkidiki, Katarina Iglesi (Siriza), recently became aware of the matter. Sensitive to these issues as she herself acted against a planned open cast gold mine by the Eldorado Gold company in Ierissos, she promised to study the dossier in an unbiased manner and affirmed her belief that, “in conformity with its promises, the new government will not cede to any pressure leading to decisions contrary to the public interest”. She also stressed the importance of finally establishing a land register in Greece, the present absence of which prevents the state from charging property tax and leaves the door open to all kinds of predators intent on developing agricultural land, an activity harmful for both environment and people.

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