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Economy

Cotton Farmers Anxious Over Dutch Flood Protection Plans for Thessaly

ATHENS – Following protests from farmers seeking more state aid in the wake of 2023 summer wildfires and floods that devastated parts of Greece’s agricultural heartland, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented flood protection proposals from Dutch experts.

Those are for the central Thessaly plain and show to local officials and tried to mitigate concerns that cotton farming would be abandoned as the region tries to recover, some parts still under water.

“It’s a study that is not set in stone, but it offers clear directions for project implementation and necessary changes. It serves as a roadmap for collaboration and a catalyst for addressing the issues of Thessaly,” Mitsotakis said.

The master plan, developed by the Netherlands-based HVA International, an agricultural firm specializing in post-disaster advice, was commissioned following the widespread flooding caused by Storm Daniel that after fires destroyed large swathes of farmlands.

He said that more than 40 scientists from eight different fields, including hydrology, engineering, agronomy, and economics, invested more than 15,000 hours to prepare the comprehensive 400-page report.

According to Mitsotakis, the master plan advocates a holistic approach to water resource management in Thessaly, recognizing that “the damage from the overexploitation of groundwater in previous years could be irreversible.”

“We should not have waited for Storm Daniel to recognize the depletion of Thessaly’s water resources. This does not imply that we should abruptly abandon cotton cultivation or initiate drastic interventions in crop restructuring,” he said.

He added that, “Neither does the study propose such actions. It would be unjust to focus solely on this aspect, disregarding the extensive analytical work conducted. Therefore, I want to clarify from the outset that this issue is not being raised,” he clarified.

He’s scheduled to meet again with farmers after earlier telling a delegation that the state has other budgetary responsibilities and constraints that need funding as the economy is accelerating with the COVID-19 pandemic all but over.

The government drew some heat after the floods for not ensuring that monies given to municipalities for flood prevention measures were implemented nor where the money went for the projects, especially after previous floods caused such damage.

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