The morning program got started late and was soon interrupted by
some 200 angry residents of Parakoila concerned about their property rights. The
late arrival of Minister of the Aegean Nikos Sifonakis introduced a note of calm
and rationality into what had been a rather heated discussion. Sifonakis
asserted that while "grandparents and great-grandparents" might have
known how to live in greater harmony with the natural environment, the problems
caused by illegal and unregulated olive oil and cheese factories were never
addressed. The traditional farming situation began to change in the 1960s with
massive emigration out of the Aegean islands. When the émigrés returned in the
1980s and after, everyone's dream was to own a hotel and build a villa on what
had formerly been farmlands. If the unregulated and illegal building practices
of the past 20 years are allowed to continue, Sifonakis asserted, islands like
Santorini and Mykonos will have no remaining unbuilt land. Therefore, he stated,
there must be regulation of building on the islands and the only authority with
the power to do this is governmental. (The Minister has recently begun to put in
place measures designed to address this situation.)
By the time the 'Plan to Protect the Wetlands of Kalloni' was presented in the
afternoon, the atmosphere had calmed considerably. In the discussion that
followed individuals expressed their concerns about their property and were
informed that their interests would be taken into account. The petitions signed
by visiting birdwatchers and others in the spring were presented at the meeting.
It was noted that the Mayor of Kalloni had donated the area between the Kalloni
Saltpans and the sea in the area between the two rivers to the local horse
riding society for the purpose of horseracing. The authors of the 'Plan to Save
the Wetlands of Kalloni' noted that as this area is part of the fragile wetland
its use for horseracing is not appropriate. It was agreed to hold further
discussions of the proposed wetland protection plan.
A seasoned environmentalist who observed the proceedings commented that
progress was made and the opposition to environmental protection by local
property holders was to be expected. This person believes that now that the
locals have had their say, the plan is likely to be implemented. In the ensuing months, there has been a great deal of local and national
press coverage of the 'Plan to Protect the Wetlands of Kalloni', which is being
touted as a model plan that could be adapted to protect other areas of Greece.
The current situation is that the 'Plan to Save the Wetlands' has been sent
to the Ministry of the Environment and Land Planning where it will be reviewed,
modified if necessary and funding assigned. This process will take time; it is
expected that it will be signed and implemented within the next two years.
Meanwhile the new measures implemented by the Ministry of the Aegean on building
and development should ensure that the areas within the zone covered by the plan
will be protected.
As for the donation of land to the horse riding association, the Mayor and the
parties involved are searching for another location for horse racing festivities
that take place annually in June. Whether another location will be found in the
next year is uncertain, but no further bulldozing will occur, as the racecourse
is already in place.
Report submitted by Carol Christ, resident of Lesbos.
Page last updated:30 Aug 2003