After debt crisis, Greek economy faces climate change threats
NEA IRAKLEIA, Greece, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Strolling along the coast of Nea Irakleia village where he would go swimming as a young man, George Perperis points to where there was once a beach, now submerged by seawater.
"Here was a 20 metre-wide beach that has completely vanished," says Perperis, 59. "Families would gather here for a swim and fishermen would lay their nets."
Accelerating coastal erosion due to climate change pose an existential threat to places such as Nea Irakleia in western Halkidiki, a three-pronged peninsula of lush forests and golden sands in northern Greece that lives off tourism.
The region was one of those worst-hit by the financial crisis that ravaged Greece from 2010 to 2018, shrinking the economy by a quarter and tipping many into poverty.
Now the impact of rising temperatures, freak weather and accelerating coastal erosion on key sectors such as tourism and agriculture could again jeopardise the finances of Europe's most indebted country.
"The crisis years were really difficult, a lot of stores closed and tourism tapered off. Then there was COVID," said Perperis, a retired mechanic and local community leader.
"But climate change might be worse. What will a tourist do here if there is no beach left?"
Experts say coastal erosion at Halkidiki, which attracts about 10% of Greece's annual 30 million visitors, has intensified in the recent years.
An observatory set up two years ago in Thessaloniki, monitors the phenomenon using satellite photos, sea floats and algorithms. Eighteen areas that authorities call "red points" have been identified in the region, showing intense coastal vulnerability.
"Unfortunately we can see regions where we will have serious problems across the coastline," said Costas Gioutikas, vice-prefect for the environment in central Macedonia. "We see beaches literally vanish."
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