Citing Landslide Risk, Greek Geologist Says Move Mountain Villages

Athens News Agency

The small village of Echinos in the region of Xanthi. (Photo via ANA)

Among Greece’s most idyllic images are old mountain villages but some are so in danger of being hit with landslides that they should be moved instead of trying to save them with anti-erosion techniques, a Greek geologist said.

Efthymis Lekkas, Professor of Dynamic Tectonic Applied Geology at Athens University and head of the Organization of Earthquake Planning and Protection made the recommendation, said Kathimerini.

The idea came after a team of professors and researchers from the university’s Geology Department completed a survey of the areas facing the greatest risk after the damage caused by Cyclone Ianos in September 2020.

Lekkas said it would be too expensive and likely to not work anyway to try to stave off erosion in areas where the soil is too weak, finding some 260 sites in the prefecture of Kardista alone were identified, where landslides are starting.

“I think the relocation of some settlements such as Agia Marina and Ktimeni should be seriously considered, and others such as Karitsa should be developed in another layout. I know it is a very difficult issue because it has a social aspect – no one wants to leave their home,” he said.

“But it doesn’t make sense to build expensive projects which will be destroyed in a few years,” he told the paper, adding that there is a history of landslides in the mountains of Karditsa, especially in Argithea and Tavropos.

"Dozens of studies have been conducted since the 1960's to deal with the phenomenon,” he said.

“However, after Ianos, the situation in the area is unprecedented: the landslides occurred simultaneously with the heavy rains, resulting in the well-known flood wave that caused damages to the city of Karditsa and the surrounding areas. The movement of the lands is huge - in some areas of Tavropos and Argithea, the landscape has changed.”

He said that slow landslides haven’t stopped because so much water has seeped into the ground, undermining it and kicking off new movements of the soil which could sweep away villages, bridges and infrastructure with rainfall.

He also recommended a systematic recording and study of the phenomenon in its entirety and not individually by location, the report added.

“This is the only way to create the appropriate scientific and technical background for long-term protection and development, taking into account the new framework formed by the climate crisis,” he said.

It wasn’t said which other areas around the country could similarly be at risk, such as western Greece which has a number of small villages in mountains, including above the city of Nafpaktos.