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Destroying NATURA sites: Greece’s new draft law triggers outrage

A draft law of new regulations for NΑTURA 2000 sites put to public consultation by the Environment Ministry has stirred up scientific bodies, environmental organizations and citizens. Protesters say that the draft law strips existing protection and allows for man-made interventions in protected and sensitive ecosystems.

The proposed legislation allows the opening of roads, the construction of energy transmission networks, installation of renewable energy sources (RES/windfarms), touristic accommodations up to 150 beds, parking places, sports activities and even mining, fishing and grazing in protected areas and sensitive ecosystems.

  • The law effectively removes most restrictions in the habitat conservation zone, as if it were not an important part of an ecosystem.

Indicative for the outrage is that of the 850 comments submitted in the first few days of consultation, almost all were negative, calling for the bill’s withdrawal, noted daily kathimerini.

Διχάζουν οι ρυθμίσεις για περιοχές Natura

Natura areas cover 28.5% of the land area of the country, while, according to ELSTAT data, within these areas there is a permanent population of 470,000 inhabitants.

With a bill of 97 articles and a public consultation of only one week, the Environment Ministry proceeds to further “dismantle” of environmental legislation in protected areas of NATURA 2000.

At the same time, it gives the green light for environmental auditors to be paid directly by the audited, while it also advances reductions in fines.

Oι περιοχές Natura 2000 της Ελλάδας | Καλλιστώ

MAPa of existing and new NATURA sites across Greece

Δίκτυο Natura 2000: Ξεκινά εκπόνηση ειδικών περιβαλλοντικών μελετών από το  ΥΠΕΝ για όλες τις περιοχές - PatrisNews - Εφημερίδα Πατρίς Ηλείας

Mid-June, when the draft law was out, environmental organizations spoke of “mockery” regarding the fast track consultation of the bill and requested with a joint letter to Environment & Energy Minister  Kostas Skrekas, the extension of the public consultation.

The Ministry argues that “the existing framework for permitted uses in protected areas is particularly restrictive for the real needs of each area and the effective protection of each protected object.”

“However, the Natura areas in our country have never suffered from excessive protection, as evidenced by the condemnation of Greece by the European Court because our country has not set targets and implemented management measures, noted kathimerini recalling that “recently, a new referral to the European Court of Justice was added to the country’s record for the improper transposition of the directive on the assessment of the effects of projects in protected areas, and, according to reliable information, new ones will soon follow.”

97 articles spreading sheer horror

In a lengthy article, daily ethnos listed a week ago, all crucial provisions of the draft  law that will effectively reduce the protection of the protected sites of NATURA 2000.

According to the provisions of the proposed draft law concerning the permitted use of land in the zones of protected areas of the “Nature 2000” Network in the areas defined as Zones of Absolute Protection of nature, i.e. the core of the protected areas, among other things allowed will be also:

  • motorized traffic roads, light traffic roads, pedestrians’ paths, bicycle paths, squares, footpaths and sea corridors, free grazing and recreational fishing.

In addition, water supply, electricity storage and transmission facilities, telecommunications, air pollution, noise and meteorological parameters measurement stations are permitted, with the necessary equipment and related facilities, above ground or underground.

A richer “bouquet” of activities will be allowed in the areas designated as Nature Protection Zones, which are also given the possibility of tourist activities, a greater possibility for the installation of RES projects. All in all, the NATURA sites  will be able to host, among other things:

  • Refreshment facilities
  • Tourist accommodation, facilities of special tourist infrastructure and other tourist businesses of mild tourist development, as long as they functionally serve one or more forms of thematic tourism.
  • Outdoor parking for the zone only.
  • Mining activities carried out underground provided that the entrance to the underground operation is outside the nature protection zone and absolute nature protection zone.
  • Mass Transportation Facilities, with specialization by sub-categories.
  • Water supply facilities, excluding desalination, electricity and natural gas storage and transmission facilities, telecommunications, electric vehicle charging stations, air pollution, noise and meteorological parameters measurement stations with the necessary equipment and related facilities, above ground or underground.
  • Renewable Energy Sources (RES) installations.
  • Camps – Children’s holidays.
  • Floating infrastructure and marine recreation facilities.
  • Mountain lodges are also allowed as well as rock climbing, horse riding, caving, river rafting, paragliding or hang gliding.

The restriction that the roads be exclusively for “serving the protection and optimal management of the protected object” is removed.

In the areas designated as Habitat and Species Conservation Zones, restrictions for tourist facilities (up to 150 beds)  and businesses are abolished and so are restrictions regarding extractive activities (mining, quarries, hydrocarbon exploration) but also regarding telecommunication antenna parks, radio and television stations.

The provisions that allowed uses only in the areas within the plan are repealed, while “electricity production facilities” are added with the exception of “electricity production facilities from fossil fuels”.

  • Lifted is also the ban on the construction of residence.

Meanwhile, the forest of Dadia National Park in Evros, North-East Greece, is on fire for the third consecutive day. The old-growth pine forest and the 485 square km of protected area are one of the most unique ecosystems worldwide.

PS for some weird reason, this government that aims to destroy everything in the name tourism development and nature exploitation seems to believe that these ‘unprotected’ sites will continue keeping their NATURA 2000 status.

Fact is: this government does not not give a damn – neither for the nature nor for the citizens.

VINTAGE PLASTIC DEER | I Heart Vintage

Maybe they will install metal trees as the mayor of Athens and the PM’s nephew did, set up fake Bambis made of plastic in forests and draw flowers and green grass on the ground.

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5 comments

  1. shame, shame, shame!
    (and i don’t feel like dancing…)

  2. I visit Greece in part because of the natural beauty and the rural, undeveloped nature of the landscape. These rule changes will degrade these beautiful places at a time when they need and deserve more protection, not less. Shame on PM Mitsotakis. I thought that he was smarter than this.

  3. My goodness, this is devastating. There will be no wildlife left. And then people complain about wild boars coming into their communities. We are destroying their habitats. Where else would they go?

  4. It’s all about greed! Meanwhile, nature (what’s left of it in Greece) is being ravaged. In the long term, this will actually affect the tourism industry negatively. Who wants to spend holidays in a barren, rocky landscape? Look what became of Attica: the same disaster is spreading in the entire country like wildfire.

  5. One thought that has never crossed my mind is “Nature in Greece, it needs more development”.

    More than enough towns (mountain & coastal) already in existence that could be improved/developed.