Subject: Environmental degradation of the Maliakos Gulf

13 October 2009

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

SUBJECT:Environmental degradation of the Maliakos Gulf

In the Spring of 2009 tonnes of dead fish were washed up on the shores of the Maliakos Gulf. Similar incidents, but on a smaller scale, had already occurred in the past.

Local non-governmental organisations attribute this regrettable phenomenon to the accumulation of sources of pollution all along the shores of the gulf. One of the main sources of pollution is the fact that sewage systems and waste water processing plants in Lamia, Kamena Vourla, Stylida and Aghios Konstantinos are either non-existent or do not work properly; in addition many factories and in particular oil factories in the region discharge untreated waste. Pollution from fertilisers, pesticides and illegal waste tips along the bed of the river Sperchios contributes to this environmental degradation, and complaints have recently also been made about co-funded public works which have changed the flow of the waters, both of the River Sperchios and streams in the region, and led to the extensive removal of reeds which in the past acted as natural filters.

Bearing in mind that since the end of 2007 the Commission had been informed about pressure due to the pollution of the valley and estuary of the River Sperchios, areas included in the NATURA 2000 network, will the Commission say:
Has it been informed of measures to monitor and manage the River Sperchios, pursuant to Directives 2000/60/EC(1) and 1992/43/EC(2)?
Has it been informed of complaints concerning oil presses, and what measures does it intend to take to protect this region from their waste?
Does it have any data on the state of waste water processing plants in the above-mentioned towns? Does it know whether projects of this kind have been included in the NSRF?

(1)    OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, p. 1.
(2)    OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.

E-4879/2009 Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission

In application of the subsidiarity principle, Member States are responsible for selecting, managing and implementing operational programmes. Member States are not obliged to send information concerning planning and development issues of projects to the Commission, unless these are co-funded Major Projects, as foreseen under Council Regulation 1083/2006 (Articles 39-41)(1). Projects and specific measures, other than the Major Projects, are selected and appraised by the competent national regional and local authorities, which are responsible for co-funding of the Structural Funds in the framework of an Operational Programme and for ensuring conformity with the European Community law. There are no Major Projects concerning the waste water treatment of these agglomerations under the current programming period, 2007‑13.The valley and estuary of Sperchios River have been designated for the Natura 2000 network pursuant to the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC(2).

The Commission has not been informed yet of measures to manage the site pursuant to the directive; in particular, the area was adopted as a site of Community importance by Commission Decision 2006/613/EC(3) and, in accordance with Article 4(4) and 6(1) of the directive, Greece has six years, i.e. until 2012, to designate the site as a Special Conservation Area and establish conservation priorities and the necessary management measures. However, the wetland of the Sperchios delta has also been classified by Greece as a Special Protection Area (SPA) pursuant to the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC(4) and it is therefore covered by the measures that Greece has to establish in order to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Justice (Case C‑293/07) concerning the lack of a coherent, specific and complete regime for the protection of SPAs in Greece.

According to the Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC)(5) the draft river basin management plans and the programmes of measures had to be published for public consultation in December 2008. These instruments must be finally adopted by December 2009. According to the information available, the implementation of the WFD in Greece is significantly delayed. As with previous phases of WFD implementation, the Commission will closely follow the next steps, in particular the adoption of the river basin management plans, in order to ensure that the Greek authorities fulfil their obligations.

(1)    OJ L 382, 31.12.1994.
(2)    OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(3)    OJ L 259, 21.9.2006.
(4)    OJ L 103, 25.4.1979.
(5)    COM(2009)156 final.