S.O.S.-Save Rafina’s Great River

The last free waterway of Greece’s Attica region

The Great River of Rafina

A Paradise on the Verge of Extinction

The Great River (Megalo Rema) of Rafina is a waterway over 20 km long, one of the few remaining natural rivers in Attica, Greece. It is an important ecosystem with wetlands and floodplains, protected by international conventions and EU and national legislation. The flora and fauna of this ecosystem is very rich, including threatened and protected species, birds, fish, reptiles and over 2,000 adult riparian trees (sycamores, willows, poplars etc.).

Its excellent natural environment contributes to the microclimate, to the protection from atmospheric and marine pollution, to the quality of underground and surface water, etc. 

At the same time, it is a natural landscape of high aesthetic value and an important landscape of historical and cultural heritage. The Great River’s natural bed and the existing connectivity with its floodplains have prevented catastrophic flooding to date, despite the human interventions so far.

Today, the Great River of Rafina is threatened with total destruction by the River Management Project run by the Greek Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport with a budget of 104 million euros. If implemented, this project will turn the river into an artificial canal. The natural riverbed and banks will be completely deforested for about 17 km and replaced by concrete and gabions (“grey infrastructure”), thus, destroying the ecosystem with irreversible consequences for biodiversity, climate and water.

While the River Management Project claims to be a flood protection measure for climate change adaptation, it employs outdated gray infrastructure methods that practically increase the flood risk. 

On the contrary, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the EU Strategy for adaptation to Climate Change, in line with innovative scientific methods, require Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for flood protection.

In reality, the River Management Project serves other major infrastructure projects in Eastern Attica (expansion of Rafina’s port, motorway and train infrastructure etc.) but it is presented as a flood protection measure in order to be financed by EU funds (NSRF), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB).

Loutro Wetland

It is noted that a similar project in the Erasinos-Vravrona river, which is part of the same flood protection financial package and applies grey infrastructures as well, was found by the EIB’s Complaints Mechanism (CM) to be in direct contradiction with recent scientific data and in breach of EU environmental law. According to the CM-EIB, no EIB funds should be used by the Greek authorities until the Erasinos project is redesigned in full compliance with EU environmental law.

We call for

  • the cancellation of Rafina’s Great River Management Project,

  • the withdrawal of EU and national funding 

  • the redesign of the project with Nature-based Solutions, in full compliance with international conventions and EU law and strategies.


Sustaining biodiversity and reducing flood risk

The floodplains of Rafina’s Great River in the plain of Spata, especially that of Petreza, and its wetlands are an important ecological part of the river system.

Rich flora and fauna

150 species of birds, imporant fish species, a diverse herpetofauna, a significant number of aquatic macroinvertebrates, etc.

Learn all details about the management project

Our interactive map shows the planned construction works on top of the river’s protected areas, wetlands and floodplains.

Highly important findings

In the area of Pikermi around the Great River of Rafina lived a rich fauna of herbivorous and carnivorous animals of the plain or the forest.

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