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Acheloos River Diversion, Greece


Description

The plan of diversing Acheloos River was first initiated in 1925. Main goal of the project was to transfer water from Acheloos River in Western Greece to the plain of Thessaly in East Greece, through the Pindos mountain chain. Thessaly plain is the biggest agricultural area in Greece, and since early 80’s the implementation of the project has been used as a promise to Thessaly’s farmer by many political parties, especially the main ones. In the meantime the production of electricity was also added to the project goals. It’s still one of the biggest, environmentally destructive, technical complicated and expensive projects in Greece.

The main goals of the project were the irrigation of Thessaly plain and electricity production, along with the water supply of cities in Eastern Greece (Volos and Larissa) and the ecological feasibility, as Pineios, Thessaly’s biggest river, as well as underwater aquifers, are degraded due to over abstraction and nitrates’ pollution.

The ecological importance of Acheloos River is significant. Acheloos plain belongs to NATURA 2000 Network and the complex of Acheloos estuary along with the lagoons of Messolonghi and Aitoliko are considered as areas of great ecological and aesthetic value and they are protected by RAMSAR Convention. In Acheloos River basin there are forests with riparian vegetation, alpine and subalpine habitats in very good condition. There is a richness of plant and animal species, a considerable amount of which are endemic, as well as mammals and birds. Furthermore, Acheloos estuary is one of the most important wetlands in Greece and an important area for migratory birds. In addition to this, important cultural and architectural places are located in Acheloos River basin.

Along Acheloos River four (4) hydropower dams are already in operation. It was first in June 1984 that the Public Electricity Enterprise submitted a preliminary study identifying alternatives for the construction of the project. The first plan comprised the transfer of 1.1 million m3 of water to Thessaly through dams, reservoirs, tunnels and Hydroelectric Power Plants. The project was planned to be funded by EU, but in the meantime EU decided that it won’t fund irrigation projects anymore and the Greek government tried to present the project as hydroelectric power production project only [1, 2].

In 1993, environmental organizations, stakeholders and local authorities from the Region of Western Greece filed two actions before the Council of State against the ministerial decisions that approved the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment. In 1994 the first decisions were issued (2759-2760/1994) by the Council of State, asking to stop the works and for the submission of an EIA for the entire project, as it would have serious impacts on the environment. Then, six more decisions were issued by the Council of State against the continuation of the works. In the decision 3054/2009, the Council judged that the project infringed the EC legislation and submitted 14 questions referred for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice of the European Communities. According to the Court of Justice decision the way of planning the river diversion infringed the EC legislation and the plan was based upon inadequate and outdated data and ignored the minimum legal requirements for water management. The project’s EIA was also based on outdated and unreliable data for the ongoing interventions in NATURA 2000 sites and for the purpose of the project, i.e. to irrigate the plain of Thessaly. Following that, the Council of State’s final decision (26/2014) confirmed the previous judgements, pointing out that to date project planning is contrary to the principles of sustainable development and violates EU legislation for the protection of the environment since 1991. Furthermore, the data of planning and operation of the project has been modified without the submission of the necessary assessments (EIA, etc.) [2, 3]. Despite the Council’s decisions, the works went on all these years.

Today the project is part of the River Basin Management Plans of both Regions (Western Greece and Thessaly) and foresees the water transfer of 250 million m3 for the environmental rehabilitation of Pineios River, while there are no new Environmental Impact Assessments or feasibility studies and there is serious criticism on the data upon which the RBMP were based [4, 5, 6].

From the beginning of the project there was a major reaction from stakeholders, local authorities and citizens groups from Western Greece Region. Especially in Messochora, a village which will be covered under Acheloos waters when Mesochoras’ dam starts operation, information events, debates, activists’ camping and demonstrations etc. were organized. Although the Council of State decisions put obstacles to the project the last two decades, the Ministries ignored them and the construction continues. A major issue is the funding of the project, as it could not be funded by EU and it’s not yet clear the total amount of money needed in order to bring the water to the irrigated lands in the plain of Thessaly.

Basic Data

NameAcheloos River Diversion, Greece
CountryGreece
ProvinceRegion of Western Greece; Region of Thessaly
SiteRegion of Western Greece; Region of Thessaly
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Water
Land

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe current scenario comprises the diversion of 250 hm3/year and the flooding of two villages and a monastery amongst other with the construction of:

A dam and a reservoir in Messochora (constructed); a tunnel for water transfer from Messochora to Glystra (constructed) and a Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) in Glystra; a dam, a reservoir and a HPP in Sykia (under construction); a tunnel for Acheloos’ diversion to Thessaly from Sykia to Pefkofyto (constructed) and HPP in Pefkofyto ; a dam, a reservoir and a HPP in Mouzaki; a dam and a reservoir in Pyli; a tunnel connecting the reservoirs of Pyli and Mouzaki; a reregulating reservoir and a small HPP in Mavrommatis
Project Area (in hectares)Acheloos River Basin: 486,000 Acheloos River Length: 220 km Plain of Thessaly: 25,000 irrigated land
Level of Investment (in USD)1,112,608,921 $ according to the Project’s Economic Feasibility Study (1997) [1] 619,600 $ is foreseen for the continuation of the project works [7] The cost for the construction of the irrigation network in the plain of Thessaly is still unknown
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population210,802 Region of Western Greece (Aitoloakarnania area) 746,714 Region of Thessaly
Start Date14/05/1993
Relevant government actorsSpecial Secretary for Water; Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change; Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks; Regional Authority of Thessaly; Regional Authority of Western Greece
International and Financial InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersWWF Greece; MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network; Hellenic Ornithological Society; Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage; Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature; Antiauthoritarian Movement of Athens and Thessaloniki; Nationwide movement against Acheloos river diversion

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Trade unions
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseLand demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesEnvironmental NGOs along with university professors and researchers insist that water scarcity and pollution problems in Thessaly plain won’t be solved by Acheloos River diversion and the transfer of more water. The open irrigation channels, the crops (mainly cotton and other crops with high irrigation needs), the irrigation and agricultural technics (ie irrigation cannons, irrational use of pesticides) and the irrational water use (ie time of irrigation), are responsible for the degradation of surface and underground aquifers in Thessaly plain. There are concrete suggestions for the construction of small dams and the better exploitation of rainwater in the plain, the enrichment of underground aquifers, the change of crops and of the agricultural and irrigation technics. These measures will improve the agricultural production and the financial situation of the farmers in Thessaly, without destroying another area (the Region of Western Greece).

Unfortunately, the government and the ministries constantly ignored the alternatives proposed and they insist on the continuation of the works.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The case of Acheloos River diversion can be considered as an environmental justice success, as there are 7 decisions from the Council of State against the project. However, for twenty years, governments ignore these decisions and continue the construction. Today, Messochora’s dam is constructed; the tunnels for transferring water to Thessaly plain have been opened, although support is needed and there are problems of water inflow; Sykias dam is under construction. This infrastructure has already provoked major degradation of the environment. Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, in an effort to make the project be in accordance with EU legislation, present it as an environmental rehabilitation, trying to overcome juridical objections. Given that, the movement declares that it will continue to fight for the definitive cancelation of the project.

Sources and Materials

Legislations

Strategic environmental assessment of the River Basin Management Plan (River Basin District) of Thessaly, 2013
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/50959275/SMPE_Thessalia.pdf

Strategic environmental assessment of the River Basin Management Plan (River Basin District) of Western Greece, 2013
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/50948065/SMPE_Dytiki%20Sterea%20Ellada.pdf

[5] River Basin Management Plan of Thessaly River Basin District, 2013
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/50959275/RBMP_GR08.pdf

[6] River Basin Management Plan of Western Greece River Basin District, 2013
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/50948065/RBMP_GR04.pdf

References

[1] Papagiannakis S., 2010, Critical Evaluation of the Acheloos River diversion project, study in the course Environmental components of planning and urban development, NTUA

Media Links

[4] WWF Greece; MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network; Hellenic Ornithological Society; Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage; Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, 2013, Comments on the River Basin Management Plans of Thessaly and Western Greece River Basin Districts
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/83683363/5NGOs-Comments%20to%20WFD%20Management%20Plan%20of%20Dut%20Ellada-Jan2013.pdf

[2] Danilakis V, 2011, The controversial Acheloos River diversion project: In favor or against? Waiting for the

Court of Justice of the European Communities decision, Nomos and physi Magazine
http://www.nomosphysis.org.gr/articles.php?artid=4339&lang=1&catpid=1

[3] MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network, 2014, Justice for Acheloos River! A milestone decision of the Court of Justice of the European Communities blocks Acheloos River diversion
http://medsos.gr/medsos/2008-08-12-07-11-15/2010-11-16-14-29-32/2010-11-16-14-32-56/1380-2012-09-11-13-34-59.html

[7] WWF Greece; MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network; Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage; Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, 2013, There are money to throw away for Acheloos River diversion
http://www.wwf.gr/news/446-2013-05-14-08-25-41

Presentations during the Conference/Information Event in Messochora, 10 August 2013
http://www.mesochoranet.gr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=176:eishhseis&catid=110&Itemid=534

Nationwide movement against Acheloos river diversion
http://aheloos.blogspot.gr/

Acheloos Ecocamping
http://aheloosecocamp.blogspot.gr/

Messochora Trikalon blog
http://www.mesochoranet.gr/

Other Documents

Information Event Information Event in Messochora, 10 August 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/10_aug_13_information_conference_b.jpg

Information Event Information Event in Messochora, 10 August 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/10_aug_13_information_conference.jpg

Acheloos Ecocamping 2009
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/acheloos_ecocamping_2009.JPG

Demonstration in Messochora Dam Demonstration in Messochora Dam, 2009
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/demo_in_Messochora_dam_2009.JPG

Demonstration in Messochora Dam Demonstration in Messochora Dam, 2009
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/demo_in_Messochora_dam_2009_b.JPG

Demonstration in Messochora Dam Demonstration in Messochora Dam, 2009
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/demo_in_Messochora_dam_2009_c.JPG

Autonomous Struggle Meeting Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Autonomous_Struggle_Meeting_against_dams_and_diversion_of_Acheloos_2013_b.jpg

Autonomous Struggle Meeting Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Autonomous_Struggle_Meeting_against_dams_and_diversion_of_Acheloos_2013_c.jpg

Autonomous Struggle Meeting Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Autonomous_Struggle_Meeting_against_dams_and_diversion_of_Acheloos_2013_d.jpg

Autonomous Struggle Meeting Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Autonomous_Struggle_Meeting_against_dams_and_diversion_of_Acheloos_2013_e.jpg

Autonomous Struggle Meeting Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Autonomous_Struggle_Meeting_against_dams_and_diversion_of_Acheloos_2013.jpg

Poster Acheloos Ecocamping 2010
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/poster_acheloos_ecocamping_2010.jpg

Poster Demonstration in Athens, 2010
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/poster_demo_in_Athens_2010.jpg

Poster Demonstration in Tricala, 2009
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/poster_demo_in_Tricala_court_2009.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorErmioni Frezouli, Geography Department - Harokopio University Athens (HUA).
Last update18/12/2014

Images

 

Information Event

Information Event in Messochora, 10 August 2013

Information Event

Information Event in Messochora, 10 August 2013

Acheloos Ecocamping 2009

 

Demonstration in Messochora Dam

Demonstration in Messochora Dam, 2009

Demonstration in Messochora Dam

Demonstration in Messochora Dam, 2009

Demonstration in Messochora Dam

Demonstration in Messochora Dam, 2009

Autonomous Struggle Meeting

Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013

Autonomous Struggle Meeting

Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013

Autonomous Struggle Meeting

Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013

Autonomous Struggle Meeting

Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013

Autonomous Struggle Meeting

Autonomous Struggle Meeting against dams and Acheloos diversion in 2013

Poster Acheloos Ecocamping 2010

 

Poster Demonstration in Athens, 2010

 

Poster Demonstration in Tricala, 2009