Greece faces growing desertification as climate emergency takes hold
Evangelo Sipsas in Thessaly, Greece

The ever-growing energy crisis in Europe is putting the agricultural industry at risk. But a more silent and less visible factor is causing even more difficulties to Greece's agricultural industry - water.

Although Greece is in a better position than other European countries, the lack of water is making farmers in the Thessaly region turn away from profitable crops.

In the region of Thessaly in the heart of Greece's mainland, is the country's largest farming area you'll notice fewer and fewer green patches and more gold or yellow ones, an indication that farmers here have been planting crops that need less water.

"The main problem here is that we don't have water. This problem didn't just show up. We've been having this issue for many years," said Dimitris Sofologis, head of the agricultural engineers association of Greece.

"You can even notice it from the land we are staying on. Not so long ago this area had enough water to produced very profitable crops, and now we drill and can't find water, making it very difficult for farmers. And this of course leads to what we call, 'desertification' of the area," he added.


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Like in most of Europe, the drop in groundwater levels is very noticeable in the Thessalian plain, resulting in soil erosion. But there's also a lack of fresh water from lakes and rivers.

Although Greece this year has received more than usual rainfall, helping to fill reservoirs, many rivers continue to dry up.  

Thessaly and the islands, are the two regions in the country that are paying the consequence of climate change and the lack of sufficient water resources.

In the Larissa region alone 1.2 million hectares of crops have been lost due to soil erosion. Scientists are warning that it will get even worse if decisions at a government level are not taken.

"I'm afraid that we will reach a point that farmers will say that they have a piece of land and it's useless," warned Sofologis.

"That's the real meaning of desertification, to have land and not be able to take advantage of it. On the other hand this will be a massive issue for the country, as more than 25 percent of the country's GDP comes from here. 

"We have mentioned it to the government and told them that our region is dying. It's inevitable unless they take immediate actions, and I mean now."

Greece has fared better than other European countries this year, with lower temperatures and more rain.  

But even so, scenes of rivers almost fully dried up are common and whole areas usually covered by water are now exposed.

While scientists say that long heatwaves are the cause of drought in Europe, here in Greece things are a bit different, with the main cause being shorter more frequent heatwaves. 

These droughts are becoming a frightening normality for people here and millions of others around the world as they struggle to adapt to the changing climate.

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