Chemistry International
Vol. 22, No.1, January 2000

2000, Vol. 22
No. 1 (January)
..Environment and Greece
..Millennium Message
..News from IUPAC
..Other Societies
..Reports from Symposia

..New Books
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Chemistry International
Vol. 22, No. 1
January 2000

Environmental Problems of Greece from a Chemical Point of View

Assistant Professor M. Dassenakis (Department of Chemistry, Inorganic and Environmental Chemistry, University of Athens, Panepistimioipolis, Athens 15771, Greece; E-mail: edasenak@atlas.uoa.gr) prepared this article on behalf of the IUPAC Commission on Soil and Water Chemistry (VI.3). We thank the Commission Secretary, Dr. Willie J. G. M. Peijnenburg (E-mail: WJGM.Peijnenburg@rivm.nl), for helping to facilitate publication of this contribution.

General Environmental Characteristics of Greece
Main Problems in the Greek Environment
Environmental Policy, Monitoring, and Protective Measures


General Environmental Characteristics of Greece

Greece, owing to its geomorphology and its fragmented structure, has an extremely wide range of environments with a vast variety of natural conditions, including high mountainous areas as well as subtropical regions. Its mountains, many of which exceed 2 000 m in height, provide all kinds of conditions with a large variety of woods, fields, and rocks; its lowlands include wide river deltas and lagoons. Greece has also many lakes and streams. Some large rivers in northern Greece (the Axios, Strimon, Nestos, and Evros) enter from the Balkan Peninsula, crossing two or more countries.

Greece's total coastline amounts to about 15 000 km (7 300 km continental and 7 700 km islands), and it is the longest in the Mediterranean region. Greece has more than 2 000 islands with rocky or sandy coasts, duns, caves, bushes, and woods, scattered from the North Ionian Sea to the southernmost point of Europe (Gavdos Island) to the easternmost point of Europe (Castellorizon Island). Areas of more than 2 000 m in depth exist in the Greek seas.

Because of such a diversity of microenvironments, the country supports some of the richest floras and faunas in Europe. It contains more than

  • 6 000 species of higher plants,
  • 110 species of mammals,
  • 400 species of birds,
  • 100 species of freshwater fish, and
  • 60 species of reptiles.

Over the last century, and especially after the 1960s, a significant move of population toward the coastal areas took place as these areas experienced increased economic development, mainly through tourism, industry, transport, and agriculture. This expansion and intensification of economic development activities has increased environmental problems and threats to Greece's wildlife, leading to a considerable decrease in the number of many species. The most serious threats for the fauna are draining of wetlands, extensive tree cutting, land clearing due to forest fires, development of coastal housing and tourist installations, and construction on mountains. Increased emissions of various kinds of pollutants and pollution of air, water, and soil have also been recognized as significant problems.

Greece's total population is about 10 million. About 89.7% of the population lives in the coastal region, which makes up 76% of the total land area (population density is about 78/km2 or 0.6/km of coast). Total population of the coastal cities in Greece is about 7 million, but it increases to more than 10 million during the summer tourism season. Population density in Greece is generally lower than that of North Europe, but it is high in the Attiki and Thessaloniki regions where half of the Greek population is concentrated. The urbanization rate in 1985 was 60%, but it is estimated that by the year 2000 it will be 68%.

Land use by main category in Greece in 1994 was as follows:

  • Arable land 17 %
  • Permanent crops 8.2 %
  • Wooded areas 22.3 %
  • Permanent grassland 13.6 %
  • Built-up land 3.7 %
  • Other areas 35.2 %

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