Building consensus around a crisis posed by nature

The main justification behind the speedy implementation of the Evinos Dam project was the need to address the urgent situation posed by a drought crisis. Indeed, the report published by YnEXQAE on the implementation of the project stated that "One of the main planning parameters for the project will be the minimization of construction time" (YnEXQAE 1990b: 23). However, the Evinos Dam project proposal was not entirely new. It had been suggested originally as a possible future addition to the plans for Mornos, Athens' most recent (1969-1981) dam project. Since then, it had been awaiting the right conditions to materialize (Kingdon 1984; Nevarez 1996). Indeed, in 1991, the right configurations prevailed: economic (funding available from the EU Cohesion Fund); socio-environmental (drought presented as water scarcity); and sociopolitical (consensus due to crisis and rising water prices combined with a turbulent political period). It was this socio-environmental configuration that permitted the relatively uncontested and rapid implementation of the old project proposal (Perelman 1979; Rutte et al. 1987). Although preliminary studies for alternative solutions were submitted to the government by environmental NGOs, academics and private engineering companies, they never received serious attention (Proceedings, IB' Assembly of the Greek Parliament, 11 May 1990). For example, in 1990, a public awareness campaign, combined with the project to seal the sinkholes of the Lake Yliki Reservoir was proposed in Parliament as a possible alternative solution:

On 23/1/90, we [the socialist party] asked for a campaign to raise public awareness regarding the irrational use of water, and the implementation of the project for sealing Lake Yliki, which would provide a definitive solution to the problem of water supply for both the Greater Athens Metropolitan area and for the irrigation of the Kopaida area.

(Proceedings, IB' Assembly of the Greek Parliament, 11 May 1990; emphasis mine)

Still, all alternative projects that were proposed were rejected. The government judged that the time it would have taken to assess, evaluate and implement these projects would be prohibitively long, given the supposed urgency imposed by the drought (Koutsogiannis et al. 1990; Kallergis and Moraiti 1991). An interviewee from the higher ranks of the Ministry of Development established a clear link between the political character of large-scale infrastructure projects and the swift character of the implementation of such projects:

One problem when carrying out studies on water resource management during a drought period is the high cost and the time-consuming character of the studies themselves, due mainly to lack of primary data. Therefore, decisions for large scale infrastructure projects, which are clearly political, are normally favoured as the quickest and "cheapest" (in the short term) solutions.

(Interview, Ministry of Development, Division of Management of Water Resources, 11 September 1996)

Thus, once again, a crisis posed by "natural" causes was the main justification for the implementation of the Evinos project.

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