Friday, 9 March 2012

Is The Natural Beauty Getting Buried?

It used to be that trips to the islands were a blessed respite from the confusion and mind-numbing negotiations, strikes, and political maneuvering that pass for normal life in Athens these days. After listening to debates about abstruse acronyms such as PSI, CAC, ECB and so forth it was a relief to get on a ferry and head to an island, any island, where life tends to run at a slower speed and reduced decibels.

Sadly, this year a winter trip to Andros served mainly as a reminder of official lethargy and confusion in the face of a long-term and increasing problem. This problem has nothing to do with the much-debated Greek pension plans, strikes, or debt repayments. The problem is quite simply the growing mounds of rubbish that blight all corners of this otherwise lovely island.

An all-too-common sight
This is by no means a new issue for Andros. The previous municipal administration also had no answers, and tried to solve the problem by burying it, literally. Unfortunately, the place they chose to bury it collapsed under heavy rains about a year ago sending tons of Andros rubbish into the sea and, eventually, onto other islands miles away. People on those islands were not amused.

That was more than a year ago. Since then, despite several official promises that ‘things were going to get resolved’ nothing has been done. Consequently, large mounds of rubbish pile up all over the island. From time to time they are collected and even shipped to treatment plants in Athens as a last resort at vast expense. Sometimes they resort to the very clever solution of turning streets leading to the main town into improvised garbage dumps.

One of the main streets turning into a dump

Even the streams are clogged
This year the locals have greeted the advent of the Orthodox Lenten season with more than the usual religious fervor and expectation of miracles.

“Thank God for Clean Monday (the beginning of Orthodox Lent). Before then the rubbish was even worse than you see now. You could barely walk anywhere. Suddenly the officials got busy and started to clean things up about a week ago. I have no idea where they’re taking it, but at least the mountains of rubbish are somewhat reduced. Fortunately we have had a cold winter so the stench was somewhat controlled. We will probably have another break for Easter when I’m sure they will find another place to hide it as the island starts to fill up again. We could do with another miracle. God knows what they will do in summer when it gets really hot and the population of the island more than triples,” said one disgusted local.

It’s not as if they are no solutions. Several have been proposed, but for some mysterious reason none has been acted upon, or even widely discussed. One of the better ones seemed to be the construction of a treatment plant at the southern tip of the island far from any population center. One land owner even said he would make more than enough land available. One attraction of this plan would be that the plant could also handle the rubbish that could be brought from the neighboring island of Tinos, only a few hundred yards away. There may be no Greek government funding available for such a project right now, but officials could at least research the possibility of a European Union grant on environmental and health grounds.

But so far, there is only thundering silence from local officials. Andros is blessed with unparalleled museums, wonderful neo-classical buildings, beautiful hills, ancient pathways, green valleys, rushing streams, and, of course, the Aegean Sea. With these natural resources and rich maritime tradition Andros could be a magnet for up-market, high quality tourism. But sadly, this opportunity seems to be slipping away under ever increasing mounds of rubbish.

While I’m at it . . . I have no idea who is responsible for maintaining historic monuments on Andros, but I really do wish someone would take a look at the remains of the Venetian castle that guards the entrance to the harbor of the main town Chora. This castle used to be graced by a tall flag pole with a large Greek flag  flying proudly above. For more than a year the flag pole has stood barren and rusting with no flag. A flag is a powerful symbol of pride and determination. In these difficult times it would be fitting to see that symbol returned to its rightful place. “We may be in tough shape, but we’re still here.”

Where is the flag?


Stathis Porfyratos said...

As an Andriotis I cannot thank you enough for your time and effort.As a cousin I feel proud and hope that you will continue the good work.Lets hope the responsible authority takes some positive action.STATHIS PORFYRATOS

Irene Couropoulos said...

Vous avez toute mon admiration pour vos efforts meritoires. Je reste sans paroles face a l'indifference criminelle et blaspheme avec laquelle le genre humain, ingrat par excellence, profane la nature, source de toute vie. Je vous souhaite bien du succes, Irene Couropoulos.

Claudia said...

I am shocked at the amount of rubbish on your beautiful island!It is incomprehensible why nothing is done about it ... also the pole without a flag is very sad as you say....
PS glad you got the ole liebster up!!!

Anonymous said...

A foreigner always observes more
that a local who sees the same
things daily and becomes accustomed
to live that way!
It is wonderful however, that some-
ones observes and talks about it!
Maybe with some luck someone in the
government will listen!
I wish good luck to the Andros people.
congratulation to you for bringing
up the subject.I'm an admirer!
dolly carlsson


such a shame ! it gives a very bad image of Greece to many tourists that will not come back !! I saw a rat on a beach in the day. Marvellous post card...
Locals are used to...but by accepting this situation that lasts for years they dig their own grave.

Dumpster Rental NYC said...

It is not the people's fault, more so the facilities that are presented along with the alignment of the scheduled way to do trash pickup.

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