In Greek mythology the Asopos River was a god, the son of Poseidon. It used to be a river with clean water, plenty of avifauna, where people could walk along, swim or fish.
Today, the Asopos River carries industrial waste. Water from the springs, wells and drillings of the area cannot be used for any human need like drinking, cooking, showering, cloth-washing or plant watering. Fish are dead, avifauna is endangered and swimming is forbidden.
How did this happen?
In 1969, a presidential decree offers economic incentives for the migration of industries from Attica to Viotia, designating for this purpose the Oinofyta – Schimatari region. The decree classifies Asopos as “a receiving body of treated industrial waste”.
In the following years, thousands of people move into the region in order to work at the growing number of industrial plants. In the 90s and 00s, independent surveys and measurings reveal the absence of wastewater treatment plants and the appropriate infrastructure for the operation of the industries in general. The heavy industrial-agricultural pollution of the groundwater table is characterized by high concentrations of carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, nickel, nitrates, phosphates, total chromium and total iron. In Oinofyta, deaths due to cancer quadruplicate in the last 15 years. The citizens of the Oinofyta area take action against the pollution of Asopos River. The matter reaches the European Commission.
Scientists strongly recommend, first to put an end the pollution and afterwards improve the environmental situation with existing technologies such as bioremediation. The Technical Chamber of Greece urgently suggests, among other measurements, the implementation of a management plan and a monitoring programme of the catchment basin.
In December 2009 the Minister of the newly founded Ministry of Environment announces the creation of a National Industrial Park along Asopos River. The Environmental Inspectors’ Body is, after months of investigation, in the tracks of a network of illegal industrial waste traffic.
Finally, in the same month, a new Presidential Decree is announced by the Head of Environmental Inspectors, which will declassify Asopos as “a receiving body of treated industrial waste” and allow protection zones.
In January 2010, the Asopos trial is taking place, with Technical Chamber of Greece and State Legal Service as political plaintiffs.
Only if state, local authorities, scientific community and citizens act coordinated in the direction of the protection of Asopos, is there a chance for the river to regain part of its divine nature.