Every time it rains and the Aoos River floods, hundreds of garbage and plastics are dug up from the old landfill site of Konitsa, located in its course, and scattered in its bed, creating not only immeasurable environmental damage, but also an image that does not befit the uniqueness of the Aoos, the last free-flowing river in Europe.
The Aoos originates within the Northern Pindos National Park and flows for 50 km within a protected area and Natura 2000 sites. However, about 10 kilometres before it meets Sarantaporos river and crosses the Greek-Albanian border, it flows past the abandoned landfill site of Konitsa (see map), which has not been adequately restored, and with the rush of its waters, it dredges up countless amounts of rubbish and plastic and scatters them in its bed.
MedINA, in June 2022, following complaints by local residents and the Giorgos Lialios’ article published in the newspaper ‘Kathimerini’ on June 5th 2022, sent, together with other organisations, such as EcoAlbania and the Green Tank, a request to the Coordinating Office for Environmental Damage Mitigation (SYGAPEZ) of the Ministry of Environment and Energy to restore the environmental damage and take up measures so as to avoid the same damage in the future.
Although SYGAPEZ initiated all procedures quickly, in accordance with its responsibilities, and at the same time some preventive measures were taken to avoid the same situation in the future by the Region of Epirus (placing large boulders on the slope of the landfill site), to date, there has been no coordinated clean-up of the Aoos River by the competent bodies; i.e. the damage caused by the floods of last winter has not been restored.
However, private initiatives to clean up the Aoos are taking place frequently, in an attempt to restore both the natural environment and the image of the area. Thus, on the weekend of January 14th and 15th 2023, NO LIMITS GR, once again, this time with the valuable contribution of 10 volunteers from various regions of Greece, cleaned the Aoos River and removed a significant amount of trash from its bed.
Despite all efforts, the problem created last winter unfortunately remains, as it is extensive and the rubbish is scattered in inaccessible places. Moreover, the effectiveness of the preventive measures taken to avoid similar damage in the future needs to be monitored, as the rushing waters of the river are very likely to carry away the boulders and undermine the landfill again.
In any case, in the year 2023, it is not reasonable for an illegal landfill to remain within the natural riverbed of a river and a definitive solution to the issue is necessary, through the permanent removal of the landfill from the Aoos riverbed.