Living and Dying With Lignite A WWF Greece production For every single benefit the Public Power Corporation (PPC) offers to the region, it takes in exchange 99 [other] We are talking about diseases, respiratory problems, cancer cases 50, 100 people work there, but another 200 are unemployed and another 200 have migrated. On the one hand they dig into the pit mines, on the other they produce all that lignite ash.
One day they will cover us all with it, while we are asleep. Village of Akrini, North-Western Greece We are at the most important centre of PPC’s mining activities. Combustion also takes place here, as TPS Ag. Dimitrios and TPS Kardia are situated next to us. Akrini is surrounded by the mines and ash deposits, just outside the village.
As a consequence, environmental pollution has become a routine for us. After a long struggle we managed to install an air quality monitoring station in the centre of our village, that recorded 140 limit exceedances, only for 2012, when they should be 35 per year, and while yearly average exceedances should be 40, we have 51! The environment here is very polluted, due to PPC’s activities. Airborne particles cause many problems, and can be harmful to our eyes. If we visit any house here in Akrini, we will find that medical prescriptions have changed 5-6 times. Everybody is taking some kind of medicine. The gift that God has given us, lignite, has now become a boomerang for the citizens’ health. We pay back our everyday earnings in lost years of our lives. And these earnings go to some, not all of us. Unemployment rates in Western Macedonia are the highest in Greece. That sums it all up. What I want to see for my village, for our grandchildren and children, is to be resettled in the place we chose in the first place. God will take care of the rest. Village of Agioi Anargyroi As you can see, this is the Amyntaio mine, in the village of Ag. Anargyroi.
In the back you can see PPC’s activities, the mining process. ATTENTION. MINE SLOPE We have worked together with PPC and we have given everything we could.
From their side, and the State’s too, we have been expecting some support that never came. They might have helped us in a few things, which do not matter. What does matter is people’s lives and especially the lives of the younger generation. It is a good thing that we have a job but, even more important is our health. The conditions in the mines are hard, and even harder for the people in the village that have to live next to all this machinery and lignite ash. Its hard to survive here. Our land has dried up. PPC was a blessing and a curse for the wider region, but for Ag. Anargyroi merely a curse. It destroyed a big, lively village. We had everything, 6-7 coffee shops, 2-3 cafeterias, 2-3 grocery stores, now there’s nothing left. If this were another country, PPC would have been forced to rebuild our settlement before starting its operations -that was in 1985. They keep making false promises. 30 years have passed and we are still waiting for our resettlement. I don’t want to mention this, but most of us have already gone to heaven, and all this because of PPC. You should listen to something that is unheard of. Recently, I was at a courtroom, and to our surprise the judge acquitted three staff members of PPC PPC’s defense witness was the Environmental Director for the Florina regional unit. We heard some outrageous claims: that flying ash, please take note of this, is not dangerous Globally, ash causes health problems and cancer.
Its odd to say, as they do here, that ash is harmless. Apart from particle materials that are harmful, and especially for our region, ash has proven to be radioactive
According to a study, radioactivity is 4-5 times higher than what it should be. Village of Pontokomi We are at the old village of Pontokomi, which compared to the rest of the country, is the Guantanamo of the region Citizens here don’t have any rights, are forced to live under extremely polluted conditions, due to the proximity of PPC They have to put up with the noise pollution, increasing pollution levels, ongoing environmental degradation They are forced to accept losing their land
Till now, we have lost two thirds of our farmland and in the near future we will have lost all of it. A village without any farming area is a dead one.
How is it possible that you can’t have your own orchard in a village? Many might say that PPC has, in return, given us jobs. Again, figures speak for themselves. The city of Kozani has the highest unemployment rates, the same goes for the W. Macedonia Prefecture, as well as the Pontokomi village that tops the unemployment tables. Why? Because of the monoculture of lignite, which doesn’t allow agriculture, livestock breeding, especially in their contemporary, more aggressive forms, as are for example, biological products.
We will never getting any such labeling here. As a result, in a shrinking agricultural land, such cultivation methods that could create some income, are impossible. On the other hand, any small industries would sooner or later be expropriated and turned into a mining area. In a nutshell, any advantage that this village used to have, for example its proximity to the cities of Kozani and Ptolemaida, is of no use, due to PPC activities. We are not saying that PPC isn’t offering any jobs.
They should be hiring permanent staff from our villages. As we speak, Pontokomi has 300 educated youngsters unemployed.
Contractors have taken over, can’t you see that? And they offer you a job for 300 or 400 euros.
It’s a mockery. But if you have to bring up two children, you will take the offer of a job, even if it’s for 300 or 400 euros. As for health issues, all young children and babies suffer from respiratory and pulmonary diseases.
The situation is hopeless. Our region has offered so much.
Its land, its water resources…and above all, our own health. The State should show some respect for these health problems, here in our region. It should provide with staff the hospitals in our area, in Florina, Ptolemaida, Kozani, and also in Kastoria and Grevena. For example, the oncology department has only one doctor.
Last spring, they even attempted to close down this one department. We have reached the bottom. There’s nothing left. We are in our own corner, we are in a Gunatanamo, we are in prison, we have no idea how to get out of here. We have no hope. Akrini village is benefiting the entire country. Its time for Greece to give back something to Akrini.
Life here is hard. Research: Iasonas Kantas; Camera: Andrea Bonetti; Editing:High Life movies; Music: Chris Zabriskie; Special Thanks to Fani Ftaka for her valuable contribution A WWF Greece production as part of the program “A future for Greece without lignite”, financially supported by the European Climate Foundation