Environmental Issues in Greece

Figure 1: Time evolution of the percentage (%) of the national total population served by wastewater treatment plants. (Source: Special Secretariat for Water, OECD)

Main themes and sectors addressed in the national State of Environment report

The national state of the environment report (SoER) for the period 2008-2011 was published in 2014 by the National Centre for Sustainable Development (NCSD)[1]. The previous SoER was published in July 2009. The SoER addresses the following main areas:

  • air quality,
  • water resources management,
  • nature and biodiversity,
  • urban environment,
  • transport sector,
  • environment and economy, and
  • environmental legislation.

Air quality

The study showed that in 2009 there was a 7.3% decrease in the total sum of emissions from acidifying substances (SO2, NOx, and NH3) and a 10.3% decrease in tropospheric ozone precursors (NOx, NMVOC, CO and CH4) compared with 1990. There was an increase of 51.5% in primary PM10 emissions during the same period.

The most important sectors of emissions in 2009 included industrial energy (due to combustion), transport, while agriculture had the largest contribution to NH3 emissions. Industrial construction and services, and households were estimated to be the most significant sectors for the emissions of primary PM10 and PM2.5, respectively.

Figure 2: Evolution of the percentage (%) of national population served by wastewater treatment plants (secondary and tertiary treatment). (Source: Special Secretariat for Water, OECD)Water resources

Increasing demand for water and groundwater abstraction tend to raise the water deficit in many regions. Water needs are often covered by transmission and storage projects, which greatly increase the cost of construction and operation. Human activities lead to a gradual degradation of the qualitative status of surface and groundwater resources, mainly in coastal and urban or agricultural areas on the eastern part of the mainland.

Wastewater treatment plants operate in most large and medium-sized cities and deal with municipal wastewater pollution. Figure 1 shows the increase in the percentage of the national population served by wastewater treatment plants. The rate in 1980 was 0.5%, in 2007 was 65%, and 87.32% in 2010.

Figure 1: Share of the national population served by wastewater treatment plants

Source: Special Secretariat for Water, OECD

Figure 2 shows the time evolution of the percentage of the national population served by wastewater treatment plants (secondary and tertiary treatment). Since 2007 a significant increase in tertiary treatment occurred.

Figure 2: Share of the national population served by secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment plants

Nature and Biodiversity

Greece is considered as a "hot spot" for biodiversity, with more than 6 200 endemic species[2][3].

There has been a downward trend in the Red List Index (RLI) for Greek bird species during the last 17 years. This indicates that the number of bird species facing extinction is increasing. This trend is mainly associated with the loss of natural habitats, their structural and functional degradation, pollution and disturbance.

Approximately half the area of Greece used for agricultural purposes has a High Nature Value (HNV). Total agricultural and forest land covers 51% of the total area, of which 18% are forests, 15% is forest land used for grazing and 18% is cultivated land.

The main causes of loss of biodiversity in Greece are related to past and current policies relating to land use, agriculture, fisheries, forest use, transport, tourism and production and consumption patterns.

Urban Environment

The agglomerations of Athens and Thessaloniki account for nearly 50% of the country's population. There has been an increase in traffic in Thessaloniki and there is an urgent need for building large transport infrastructure projects.

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