Flooded Greek lake a warning to European farmers battling climate change

Published February 25, 2024
ALMOND trees dot a flooded area in a village in Greece.—Reuters
ALMOND trees dot a flooded area in a village in Greece.—Reuters

KANALIA: Sitting in a small motorboat, farmer Babis Evangelinos glides over land he once cultivated on the Thessaly plain in central Greece, the nearby trunks of his fruitless almond trees submerged by floodwater.

His small plot, near Lake Karla, is among tens of thousands of acres of cotton fields, almond trees and grazing lands that were wiped out by unprecedented flooding last year in one of Greece’s key breadbaskets.

Five months on, much of the area — and a lot of expensive equipment — remain underwater. A pumping station meant to stop flooding is marooned in a shallow lake. Pelicans and herons, previously uninterested in the once dry plain, swoop overhead.

Farmers from India to France and Poland have taken to the streets in recent days, bemoaning competition from abroad, a lack of government support and low prices. Thousands descended on central Athens on Tuesday calling for more aid.

Greece has been buffeted by extreme weather too. Wildfires ripped through the north last year, then Storm Daniel dumped 18 months of rain in four days in September, raising questions about the Mediterranean country’s ability to deal with an increasingly erratic climate. It also offers a warning of what other countries further north may face in future.

“I could never have imagined I would have to board a boat to get to see my land,” said Evangelinos as he drifted by his sodden trees. “Work of a lifetime ruined, gone in three, four days of rain.” The situation has fuelled anger among farmers who, like many across Europe, have found their livelihoods under threat from rising costs and climate change, and created a headache for governments expected to pay the bill.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2024

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