Keratea is a quiet, sleepy little town lying to the south east of Athens. Surrounded by fields, low hills, olive groves and orchards it has a charming serene quality which has attracted, in addition to its original inhabitants, a large number of Athenians who commute every day just to escape the noise and the pollution of the metropolis.
Unfortunately, this idyllic atmosphere was shattered last year by events that were unheard of in the post junta Greek history.
This peaceful, fertile, historical area, a region full of ancient relics and rich in minerals of all sorts, was chosen for the creation of a landfill!
In reality the problem started long ago but was kept under wraps by all the governments since they knew that their choice was, to say the least, doubtful and a law suit against them would have been won by the inhabitants of the area if it was tried fairly: The area is of great archaeological value and is protected as a region of great natural beauty. In addition, it is situated right on a seismic fault which makes it totally unsuitable for such use.
Unfortunately, Keratea was called upon to pay for the sins of all the post junta governments who never had any environmental sensitivities and therefore never properly planned the disposal of waste of the greater Athens area. The arbitrary decision made by the government was directly challenged by the municipality of Lavreotiki which, according to the new Kallicratis law, is now made up of Keratea and Lavrio, the other historical town of the region. The citizens of Keratea, most of them descendants of the Albanian warriors who followed the Turkish troops and settled in various parts of Greece, refused to accept a decision that was made behind closed doors and obviously in desperate hurry – the government was and still is afraid that it would have to pay fines for the old type landfills it has constructed all over Greece and on the other hand they do not want to lose the European Union funding which has a specific deadline.
On December 10 2010 riot police accompanied the bulldozers of the constructors and tried to forcefully enter the area allocated. The people of Keratea decided that they could not allow their livelihoods to be thus destroyed and barred the roads leading to the construction site. According to the inhabitant’s testimonies a real battle ensued with the police special forces at a disadvantage since they did not know the lay of the ground and could not move easily due to their heavy shields, helmets, clubs etc. The injured were numerous on both sides. Similar attacks, ambushes, skirmishes have been going on now for 120 days!! The municipality has a siren that announces the arrival of the police forces and the citizens barricade themselves. There are road blocks on both ends of the town of Keratea and the local businessmen are driven to distraction but still resolutely refuse to allow the construction of the landfill which would destroy them for good.
The most amazing thing is that while this has been going on for four months very little is known about it by the majority of Greek society. The internet community is informed by two blogs- antihyta and the Lavreotiki blog- but one must keep in mind that while there is a tremendous increase in the use of the internet it is not as common as it is in other parts of the world and therefore this strange “war” is being waged in absolute and very loud silence. The mainstream media report very little about it and reproduce the government arguments with very few exceptions. Please note that many of the larger .mass media owners are also constructors who undertake government contracts – can you see the lovely connection?
During the 8-10 April weekend the people of Keratea organized the Resistance Festival with the participation of poets, musicians, actors and singers in an area right infront of the construction site so that all those who participated from all over Greece could understand their reasons for refusing the construction.
Resistance veteran Manolis Glezos and the world famous composer Mikis Theodorakis both visited the Festival and expressed their support to the citizens of Lavreotiki. They joined their voices to that of the thousands of participants who streamed in on foot, on bicycles with their children, pets or instruments and wrote on placards and posters to express their solidarity with the stubborn and brave people of Keratea. Nikos Houndis, member of the European Parliament and left wing members of the Greek parliament discreetly attended the Festival.
As I finished my post I checked the antihyta blog. Apparently a “police parade” is hapenning right now.
The government would be well advised – especially since it was the first one to introduce an Environment Ministry – to stop this unconstitutional invasion and discuss more modern and less destructive methods of disposal of waste. The technology is there. All they have to do is show the same bravery as the people of Keratea, assume the political cost and plan a project that will be beneficial to the Greek people instead of the various, well-connected, contractors – constructors.