About the Movement
Who we are
The “Movement for the Protection & Restoration of the Great River of Rafina” is a citizens’ movement that, since its establishment in 2015, has been constantly fighting to protect the Great River against any anti-environmental threats. The Movement seeks to cancel the Great River management project, that will channelize 17 km of natural riverbed, destroying the rich ecosystem and turning the river into an open stormwater conduit.
At the same time, the Movement organizes information and awareness actions in order to make known to the general public the great ecological importance of the river, the irreparable destruction that is about to take place as well as the alternative solutions that exist for its gentle management, such as Nature-based Solutions ( ΝbS). Actions for more general environmental issues, such as biodiversity, natural ecosystems, the climate crisis, etc. are organised as well. In the same context, the Movement organizes tours to get to know the river, its wetlands and floodplains, educational activities for children, etc.
The Movement has also intervened in cases of other smaller destructive interventions in and around the river and the wetland of its estuary, such as in the cases of clearing the bed with bulldozers, illegal concession of Green Zone A to the contractor company by the Municipality of Rafina-Pikermi for use as a construction site for the purposes of the project, arbitrary projects and the concession of Panorama beach in the A priority wetland of the estuary for business activities, etc.
On April 24, 2023, amidst the breeding season, the contracting company attempted to start the project by invading the riverbed with bulldozers, while the Council of State has not yet ruled on the legality of the river delineation. Within hours, the bulldozers completely deforested a part of the riverbed, destroying the flora and the nests, eggs and habitats of birds and other species, including migratory and protected species such as the European eel etc.
In the following days the members of the Movement formed a human chain around the bed of the River preventing the bulldozers of the contractor company from continuing the destruction. Since then, the project has been temporarily halted.
The protest of the Movement for the intervention was signed by 61 environmental organizations and collectives. Despite the great publicity the issue received in the press and social media, no measures were taken regarding the environmental liability for environmental damage (Directive 2004/35).
Following a call by the Movement, on 29.4.2023 a protest march was held in the center of Rafina with an unprecedented participation of hundreds of people, which was also attended by representatives of ecological organizations, local bodies, municipal and regional factions, etc.
Our battles in court
Appeal against environmental licensing
In 2018 Members of the Movement in collaboration with other associations and citizens appealed to the Council of State against the environmental licensing (AEPO). By decision 2145/2020 the application for annulment was rejected. The supreme court did not conduct a substantial assessment and evaluation of the relevant scientific and technical environmental issues of the environmental licensing (AEPO). Following its established jurisprudence that these escape the limits of annulment review, the Court limited itself to a control of legality and justification based on the “lessons of common experience”. In this light, the environmental documentation of the project was deemed legal and sufficiently justified.
According to the EIA, in the framework of the mnagement project the effects on the area’s fauna due to the deforestation of the hydrophilic vegetation along the stream will be remedied by the recolonization of the riparian zone by the species after the works are completed. The natural riparian vegetation, which will be deforested, will be restored by planting new trees and by incorporating seed clods and topsoil in the gaps of the wire ties to allow vegetation to grow on the stones of the gabbions. Moreover, acoording to the EIA following a phytotechnical study 380 sycamores, 240 pines, 230 willows, 260 poplars, 40 cypresses and 40 tamarisks will be planted “with spatial emphasis on the areas from which they will be cut”. The Council of State accepted that the EIA examined the effects on the fauna of the area and proposed specific measures to deal with them, in particular the restoration of the natural riparian vegetation. Nonetheless, based on the lessons of common experience, “you can’t plant a ‘home”!
Moreover, with regard to the adverse effects on the fauna and the ecosystem, the Council of State failed to take into account the reports of Hellenic Centre of Marine Research (ELKETHE) and the Hellenic Ornithological Society, because they had not been presented to the Administration in the context of the consultation on the Environmental Impact Study. With regard to the protected wetland of the Estuary (Priority A), the Court accepted that the management of the bed with cement and gabbions does not constitute a disturbing activity and an activity that degrades its ecological status (!). Finally, with regard to the anti-flood nature of the project, the Court accepted that in principle the substitution of a natural stream by a pipeline is allowed only exceptionally and under special conditions, related to the treatment of a serious flood risk. In this particular case, while accepting that:
- the construction of the planned dam was reasonably chosen to take place at a later time in due course following an assessment of the impact of the A’ phase project on local flood risk and
- the increase in the speed of the water flow will be significant due to the materials that will be used in the project,
the Court concluded that “the creation of a controlled and specific space for the passage of water by virtue of the disputed project ensures the prevention of flooding“. This position runs counter to the scientific approach “Room for the River”, which advocates restoring the river’s natural floodplain in places where it is least harmful, in order to protect those areas most vulnerable to floods.
Moreover, the Court ruled that the alternative solutions, including the zero solution, had been sufficiently considered but were rejected as insufficient. However, the Court did not take into account the technical expertise of a local hydraulic engineer with international experience, from which it emerged that the implementation of the settlement project as planned in phase A, i.e., without the retention dam, actually increases the flood risk.
These approaches of the Supreme Administrative Court raise the issue of the lack of a real and effective appeal of full jurisdiction in environmental cases in Greece, which would allow the court to check both the substantive and technical judgments of the Administration based on the expertise of environmental organisations and technical experts submitted by the applicants. The judicial control, as applied today, restricted to the legality and justification, on the basis of the ‘lessons of common experience’, which are often specialized on the basis of subjective perceptions, is not enough.
Appeal against the delineation of the river
Already in 2019, members of the Movement in cooperation with citizens and associations of the region have lodged before the Council of State an appeal against the act of demarcation of the river by a ministerial decision (2019) and later by a presidential decree (2021). The appeal has been set to be heard on 4.10.2023.
Appeal against the concession of municipal land for the works
Besides, members of the Movement together with all the leaders of the opposition factions of the Municipality of Rafina-Pikermi, appealed against the illegal concession to the contractor company of municipal land characterised as a Green Zone (Priority A) to be used as a construction site for the purposes of Rafina’s Great River management project. The case is still pending before the Council of State.
Documents by Organizations
Report on the biodiversity at water bodies and the wider riparian area of the Great River of Rafina (Attica)
Impacts of the Excavation-Cleaning Project in the Great River of Rafina
Updated report on the scientific documentation for the demarcation of Attica's wetlands
Wetland of the estuary of Rafina's Great River (greekwetlands.biodiversity-info.gr)
Certification on the impact of the river management works
Report on the Great River of Rafina
Report on the Great River of Rafina
Memorandum of the General Directorate of Antiquities & Cultural Heritage
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