Subject: Environmental degradation and reduced water level in Lake Vegoritida

29 September 2009

WRITTEN QUESTION by Kriton Arsenis (S-D) to the Commission

SUBJECT: Environmental degradation and reduced water level in Lake Vegoritida    

Lake Vegoritida is situated between the prefectures of Florina and Pella and is included in the Natura 2000 network. However, it has been observed that human activities have resulted in a reduction in the volume of water in the lake. The lake now has only about 35 % of its original volume. Irrigated areas have quadrupled over the last three decades, extending to thousands of hectares of land around the lake.

Moreover, a recent study by the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki found that the lake was degraded and in poor ecological condition, with a high concentration of phytoplankton biomass and cyanobacteria. Local bodies and the Association for the Protection of Vegoritida state that urban waste water and pesticide residues are going into the lake.

1. Is the Commission aware of this lake’s environmental problems?

2. In this case, are the provisions of Directive 91/271/EEC on the treatment of urban waste water being complied with?

3. Does the Commission have any information on European funding for the construction of waste water treatment systems in the region? Has it confirmed that they are operational?

4. Given that Lake Vegoritida is included in the Natura 2000 network, does the Commission consider that in this case the protection provisions under Community law are being complied with?

E-4613/2009 Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission

Lake Vegoritida is a wetland included in a site of Community importance (Lakes Vegoritida-Petron, GR1340004) designated under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC(1). One of the major threats to the site (according to its Standard Data Form) is that the water level has decreased in both lakes during recent years and the water quality has deteriorated as a result of eutrophication. It is the reponsibility of the Greek competent authorities to take the necessary measures in accordance with Article 6(2) of the Habitats Directive in order to avoid the deterioration of the site's conservation values. The Commission will ask the Greek authorities to provide information on these issues.

Regarding the implementation of Council Directive 91/271/EEC(2) on urban waste water treatment, The Commission is not in possession of adequate data, as Greece has not complied with its reporting obligations. In 2007 the Commission requested information from Member States on compliance with the directive, under Article 15(4) of the directive. However, Greece did not report. Consequently, the Commission launched an infringement procedure against Greece in March 2009 (Case 2009/2033). In July 2009, the Commission launched the next reporting exercise on compliance with the directive and Member States are required to report within six months of receipt of the request (Article 15(4)).

Compliance with Council Directive 91/271/EEC implies both the construction of the waste water infrastructure and its proper functioning according to the emission controls set out in the directive. Consequently, if a waste water treatment plant exists but does not function in accordance with the directive, this would constitute an infringement of the directive.

According to the information received by the National Authorities, two projects concerning waste water treatment are funded in the framework of Operational Programme Environment 2000‑06 in the Vegoritida municipality. The total budget is approximately EUR 1 million. However, it should be noted that in the context of shared management, projects and specific measures (other than major projects) are selected and appraised by the competent national, regional and local authorities which are responsible for co-funding by the Structural Funds in the framework of an Operational Programme and for ensuring conformity with the European Community law.

The Water Framework Directive (WFD)(3) establishes a comprehensive framework to protect surface and groundwater, with the aim of achieving good status of all waters as a rule by 2015. The main tools to accomplish this objective are the river basin management plans and the programmes of measures. These must be adopted by the Member States in December 2009 and reported to the Commission by March 2010 (Article 13 WFD).

The Commission will closely monitor the next steps in the implementation of the WFD, in particular the adoption of the river basin management plans, in order to ensure that the Greek authorities fulfil their obligations.

(1)    Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(2)    Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban waste-water treatment, OJ L 135, 30.5.1991.
(3)    Directive 2000/60/EC of Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, OJ L 327, 22.12.2000.