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Acheloos River Diversion, Greece


The plan of diversing Acheloos River was first initiated in 1925. Main goal of the project was to transfer water from Acheloos River in Western Greece to the plain of Thessaly in East Greece, through the Pindos mountain chain. Thessaly plain is the biggest agricultural area in Greece, and since early 80’s the implementation of the project has been used as a promise to Thessaly’s farmer by many political parties, especially the main ones. In the meantime the production of electricity was also added to the project goals. It’s still one of the biggest, environmentally destructive, technical complicated and expensive projects in Greece.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Acheloos River Diversion, Greece
State or province:Region of Western Greece; Region of Thessaly
Location of conflict:Region of Western Greece; Region of Thessaly
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The current scenario comprises the diversion of 250 hm3/year and the flooding of two villages and a monastery amongst other with the construction of:

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Project area:Acheloos River Basin: 486,000 Acheloos River Length: 220 km Plain of Thessaly: 25,000 irrigated land
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,112,608,921 $ according to the Project’s Economic Feasibility Study (1997) [1] 619,600 $ is foreseen for the continuation of the project works [7] The cost for the construction of the irrigation network in the plain of Thessaly is still unknown
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:210,802 Region of Western Greece (Aitoloakarnania area) 746,714 Region of Thessaly
Start of the conflict:14/05/1993
Relevant government actors:Special Secretary for Water; Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change; Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks; Regional Authority of Thessaly; Regional Authority of Western Greece
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Union (EU)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:WWF Greece; MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network; Hellenic Ornithological Society; Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage; Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature; Antiauthoritarian Movement of Athens and Thessaloniki; Nationwide movement against Acheloos river diversion
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil erosion
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Environmental NGOs along with university professors and researchers insist that water scarcity and pollution problems in Thessaly plain won’t be solved by Acheloos River diversion and the transfer of more water. The open irrigation channels, the crops (mainly cotton and other crops with high irrigation needs), the irrigation and agricultural technics (ie irrigation cannons, irrational use of pesticides) and the irrational water use (ie time of irrigation), are responsible for the degradation of surface and underground aquifers in Thessaly plain. There are concrete suggestions for the construction of small dams and the better exploitation of rainwater in the plain, the enrichment of underground aquifers, the change of crops and of the agricultural and irrigation technics. These measures will improve the agricultural production and the financial situation of the farmers in Thessaly, without destroying another area (the Region of Western Greece).
Unfortunately, the government and the ministries constantly ignored the alternatives proposed and they insist on the continuation of the works.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The case of Acheloos River diversion can be considered as an environmental justice success, as there are 7 decisions from the Council of State against the project. However, for twenty years, governments ignore these decisions and continue the construction. Today, Messochora’s dam is constructed; the tunnels for transferring water to Thessaly plain have been opened, although support is needed and there are problems of water inflow; Sykias dam is under construction. This infrastructure has already provoked major degradation of the environment. Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, in an effort to make the project be in accordance with EU legislation, present it as an environmental rehabilitation, trying to overcome juridical objections. Given that, the movement declares that it will continue to fight for the definitive cancelation of the project.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[5] River Basin Management Plan of Thessaly River Basin District, 2013
[click to view]

[6] River Basin Management Plan of Western Greece River Basin District, 2013
[click to view]

Strategic environmental assessment of the River Basin Management Plan (River Basin District) of Western Greece, 2013
[click to view]

Strategic environmental assessment of the River Basin Management Plan (River Basin District) of Thessaly, 2013
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] Papagiannakis S., 2010, Critical Evaluation of the Acheloos River diversion project, study in the course Environmental components of planning and urban development, NTUA

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[2] Danilakis V, 2011, The controversial Acheloos River diversion project: In favor or against? Waiting for the

Court of Justice of the European Communities decision, Nomos and physi Magazine
[click to view]

[3] MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network, 2014, Justice for Acheloos River! A milestone decision of the Court of Justice of the European Communities blocks Acheloos River diversion
[click to view]

[4] WWF Greece; MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network; Hellenic Ornithological Society; Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage; Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, 2013, Comments on the River Basin Management Plans of Thessaly and Western Greece River Basin Districts
[click to view]

[7] WWF Greece; MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network; Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage; Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, 2013, There are money to throw away for Acheloos River diversion
[click to view]

Presentations during the Conference/Information Event in Messochora, 10 August 2013
[click to view]

Nationwide movement against Acheloos river diversion
[click to view]

Messochora Trikalon blog
[click to view]

Acheloos Ecocamping
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Ermioni Frezouli, Geography Department - Harokopio University Athens (HUA).
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1697
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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