Building consensus around promises of development

A second element for building public consensus for the dam project that was as important as the threat fabricated around a "natural" crisis was the political promise given to the construction industry and to the local community for major capital investment and economic growth that the project would bring. Since the end of World War II, state support for the construction industry in Greece has been an efficient and popular way of producing short-term economic growth, mainly because of the economies of scale produced by this industry and the relatively large number of people involved (Leontidou 1990; Filippidis 1990; Giannakourou 2000; Kafkalas 1985; Mantouvalou and Martha 1982; Vaiou et al. 2000). During the post-war period, the development of the water supply system of Athens played a pivotal role in supporting urban expansion and land speculation. The urban sprawl that occurred between 1950 and 1970 could not have happened without the expansion of the water supply network, and of the resource base, both of which were either funded or heavily subsidized by the state. Not only the supply network, but also the city's ecological footprint grew dramatically during this period. Water supply was not only a guarantor for urban sanitation; it also became a determining factor for land speculation. By securing water supply for new urban development schemes, the state in effect subsidized private developers and assisted in their land speculation practices. The construction industry maintained this pivotal position in the Greek economy in recent years. As K.Koutlas, vice president and management director of the PROODEYTIKI construction company (contractors of the Thisavros dam for the Electricity Company of Greece), put it:

The Greek construction industry has taken on a strategic role in the economic development of our country, since it is the sector which provides the link between the inflow and the diffusion of European funds in the Greek economy. „.The implementation of big infrastructure projects is linked to high-value cash flows into the Greek productive activities, which reinvigorate a series of activities in a broad range of economic sectors.. .In order for the above efforts to continue to take place, it is necessary to sustain the regular flow of European funds from the 2nd and the pending 3rd European Support Framework. These projects provide jobs for thousands of Greeks and their completion will permit further development of the country's resources.and in general the promotion of the image of our country. The benefits will be reaped by the country as a whole.

(TEXNIKA 131, "Public works in Greece", October 1997:23)

The Evinos project belongs precisely to the category of projects to which Koutlas refers in his interview—projects that will sustain economic growth, provide jobs and keep the economy ticking. Thus, despite the anticipated negative impact of the project on agriculture, cattle-grazing and natural habitats in the areas through which the river naturally flows, the proposed damming works did not raise as much opposition as one might have anticipated. Despite a militant Greek agricultural sector and a recent history rich in farmers' protests, opposition to this particular project was left almost exclusively to ecological organizations (Modinos 1990, interview, 27 July 1997). Although the political promise to keep the river's flow uninterrupted helped to create consensus among the local population, it was a more important political promise that accounted for the lack of strong civil opposition: the promise to provide employment for thousands of local people at highly attractive wages (700,000 dr. (€2,054) per month, at a time when the minimum wages in Greece were of the order of 100,000 dr. (€293.47) per month

(Newspaper MaxeSovia, 26 September 1993)). For a region whose people struggle to survive on low incomes (mainly from agriculture) and are often structurally dependent on subsidies provided by the government or the EU, the promise of development coupled with guaranteed employment for at least five years at high wages was a very significant factor in fostering social consent (Baker et al. 1994).

This mechanism of consensus-building is also exemplified in an interview given by the president of St Demetrios, one of the communities located in the Evinos River valley. The president produced a long list of problems that the Evinos project would cause for the local people and the local environment: the expropriation of land with low—and, often, delayed—financial compensation; the loss of water for the area; the continuous dynamite explosions and dust local communities would have to endure for several years; and the negative impact of the dam on the area's flora and fauna. Yet he concludes by saying: "We [the local community] would be happy to consent to the implementation of the project, provided that we, as well, got something out of it" (Newspaper Ta Nea, 12 June 1993). This phrase captures the "naturalization" of the clientelist character of political and economic relations involved in the process of implementation of big infrastructure projects. It also indicates how the promise of development becomes part of a consensus-generating mechanism. The response given by A.Karamanlis, the then Minister of Environment, Planning and Public Works, when questioned in Parliament about the estimated environmental and social impact of the dam project, reveals a similar position:

I don't think that the water taken from Aetoloakarnania [the valley area of the Evinos River] is really depriving the area of this resource. In any case, the projects that are implemented there profit not only half of the population of Greece who live in Athens, but also the inhabitants of that particular area themselves. We are not taking water at the expense of anyone. We make use of this water according to the letter of the law, in order to provide domestic water supply. It is our duty to do so, dear colleagues...[S]hould we have said instead to the Athenians (to all four million of them) "No, we shall not bring water from elsewhere; go away from Athens?" Is this what you would have wanted us to say?

(Proceedings, IB' Assembly of the Greek Parliament, 21 May 1993:7,035-7,036)

According to the minister's speech, the inhabitants of Aetoloakarnania had no choice, other than to consent to a project that would generate economic growth in their area. Of course, this kind of growth would be as short-lived as the construction period of the dam itself—the jobs and the "positive effects" would disappear as soon as the dam were completed. Again, however, the promise was made that the short-lived effects of this kind of development would be complemented by further funding (national or EU) that would ensure a continuous flow of projects and continuous local and national development. Similarly, when the mayor of Elatteia, a village in the area of the Evinos River valley, protested in a letter to the Minister of the Environment that the fields of the area had dried out due to the deviation of the area's water towards Athens, the government replied that the matter would be dealt with in due course, through further funding from the

Second EU Support Framework (1994-1999) (Proceedings, O0' Assembly of the Greek Parliament, 16 February 1993:4,112). Thus, the solution to social and environmental problems caused by progress was looked for in promises of further development. The only way to continue to reap positive effects from this kind of development was to ensure a continuous flow of funds, which would allow for a continuous flow of activities. As the management consultant of one of the biggest private construction companies in Greece (ATTI-KAT) put it:

The Greek choice for development is based on immediate and short-term efforts to implement the European Support Framework, by utilizing the funds provided ,..[T]he Greek construction industry is on the alert to respond to the implementation of the works with a high sense of responsibility.

(TEXNIKA 131, October 1997)

In an era of increasing environmental awareness, Greece subscribed to a politics and practice that paid lip service to environmental protection while remaining loyal to a practice of development through big infrastructure projects. Hence, the crisis generated by the drought very soon became constructed as a challenge to overcome through the implementation of new projects, generating the oxymoronic positioning of nature both as a potential source of crisis and as the prerequisite for development (Smith 1984). Within this framework, the contradiction between development and environmental protection is considered to be eased away through the right management and the application of remedial technology, or, in this particular case, through reaching even further outside the urban settlement in search of new "mineable" water. This way, the solution to an "environmental" problem moved, in effect, into the domain of expert discourse within the state apparatus (Hajer 1995), and the crisis that was constructed around the drought period worked as a hegemonic tool to justify policies towards further development (Keil and Desfor 1996; Gandy 1997; Swyngedouw 1997; 2004).

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