Save the Great River of Rafina (Greece)

To the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Investment Bank and the Greek Prime Minister.

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We ask that you take action:

  • to cancel the Great River of Rafina (Greece) management project, which will transform it into an artificial storm drain made of concrete and gabions.

  • to withdraw the project’s funding from EU and national resources.

  • to implement a complete redesign using "Nature-based Solutions" (NbS), according to modern scientific insights, international conventions, EU and national legislation on biodiversity, water and flood protection, as well as EU strategies for biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.

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Why is this important?

Please watch our explainer video "Rafina's River" and visit our website

The Great River of Rafina (Greece):

is an over 25 km long waterway, one of the few remaining natural rivers in the fire-ravaged Attica region, Greece.

is an important ecosystem with wetlands and floodplains, with rich flora and fauna, including over 150 species of birds, 23 of which are protected and some threatened according to the EU Directive 2009/147, fish (some of which critically endangered, such as the Marathon minnow), reptiles etc. and over 2,000 adult riparian trees.

has to date prevented catastrophic flooding due to its natural riverbed and the existing connectivity with its floodplains.

offers significant environmental benefits, improving the microclimate, protecting from atmospheric and marine pollution, contributing to the quality of underground and surface water, in a region stricken by wildfires in all of its mountain area.

protects from the effects of climate change, such as heatwaves, drought, floods, coastline erosion, water inundation.

it is a natural landscape of high aesthetic value and an important landscape of historical and cultural heritage.

The management project of the Great River of Rafina  started on 24 April 2023 and was temporarily stopped thanks to the mobilization and legal actions taken by the residents. If the project is implemented:

the river will turn into an artificial canal, where 17 km of natural riverbed and banks will be completely deforested and replaced by concrete and gabions ("gray infrastructure"), breaking the connectivity to the natural floodplains and wetlands

the ecosystem will be completely and irreversibly destroyed, with serious consequences at an international level, as the Great River is one of the most important stations for migratory birds in the Eastern Attica wetland network.

the flood risk will increase, despite the claim by the Greek State for the opposite, due to the chosen outdated gray infrastructure methods, instead of implementing Nature based Solutions (NbS).

It is actually an infrastructure project and not an environmental one as it is purported, that supposedly deals with the consequences of climate change. It serves other major infrastructure projects in Eastern Attica (expansion of Rafina’s port, Attiki Odos motorway, train infrastructure etc.) but it is presented as a flood protection measure in order to be financed by EU and national resources.

It is also worth noting that the destruction of the Great River is being planned while today in Europe millions of euros are being spent on restoring rivers to their natural course (daylighting & renaturalisation). It has even been set as a target in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 to restore the natural flow of 25,000 kilometers of Europe's rivers.

In a similar project at the Erasinos-Vravrona river [1], the EIB's Complaints Mechanism (CM) found non-compliance with EU environmental law and recommended that no EIB funds be utilized until the project is redesigned in full compliance with EU environmental legislation. 

Canceling and redesigning the project with Nature-based Solutions (NbS) is urgently needed in order to save the Great River of Rafina and to bring the project into compliance with international conventions, EU and national legislation on biodiversity, water and flood protection [2], as well as with EU strategies on biodiversity for 2030 and adaptation to climate change.


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  1. Part of the same flood protection financial package as the Great River of Rafina and applying gray infrastructures as well
  2. Directives 92/43/EEC, 2009/147/EC, 2000/60/EC, 2007/60/EC
  3. In July 2022, the United Nations welcomed the recognition by the General Assembly that a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right. The same right is recognised in Article 1 of the Aarhus Convention.

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