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Some points for a Belgian enterprise in Matala, Crete Εκτύπωση Αποστολή με e-mail
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Ecological Society of Heraklion , Παρασκευή, 10 Φεβρουάριος 2006

Two are the main subjects of interest in the area of Messara lately: the plans for the Chinese transit port in Tympaki, and the investment of the Belgian company “Green Well” for touristic development in a public – and protected – forest area in Matala.

The plans include sale and rent of land in the areas of “Kokkini Ammos” and “Ammoudia”, which are located in the southern edge of Matala’s bay. This in fact includes the purchase of ca. 40 ha of public land for 35,000 euro per ha for the construction of 360 summer villas, the long-term renting of another 200 ha of land, the construction of an 18- and a 9-hole golf court, a hotel with a capacity of 1,500 beds, a spa that can serve 200 people, a 500-seats’ conference room, buildings for sport activities and a thematic park.

The whole area is characterised by an abundance of very important vegetation of makkia and phrygana, while it is a priority habitat and is included in NATURA 2000 network, under the code number GR 4310004. It was classified as a forest area, while now there is an attempt to be characterised as grassland.

As these large-scale intervention plans refer to an area whose resources (mainly water, land and energy) are not adequate to support them, the impacts on Mt Asterousia will be extremely negative, especially now that these recourses are being claimed by other competitive activities that are totally depended on them. The golf courts and other relevant installations need large quantities of water and land, while such activities cannot be compromised with the semi-arid characteristics of an area that has been internationally classified as in “a high risk of desertification”.

Undoubtedly, this project will not be a form of mild touristic development; it will be the worst type of it. The type of extensive construction activities in protected areas, which are lacking common sense, ethical basis and environment support, even if some people try to dress it up as a lawful and sound investment through the announcement of “specific urban plans”. All these years and through a number of development studies the subject of research was to find a mild way of development, based on the conservation of the cultural and natural profile and the special characteristics of the whole area of Asterousia and Messara.

Before any investment to take place, high priority is the elaboration of the anticipated Special Environmental Studies and the establishment of the relevant Management Bodies in all NATURA 2000 areas by a Presidential Decree (before the start of the E.U. fines).

The “Cultural Society of Messara” has declared since many years that due to its historical, archaeological and environmental sites, the region should belong to the list of the most important archaeological and natural areas in Greece. The Belgian's investment will only cause degradation.

The lawfulness of the whole procedure for granting and selling of public land is being seriously doubted, as this goes on without a call-for-tenders procedure. Even if we exclude the factors of environment, constitutional law, urban planning etc., who could guarantee that the Belgian’s proposal is the best offer we can have for the development of the region?

This is all about granting public wealth, with a political facilitation of a colonial type: fast and opaque procedure, administrative favours such as declassifications and beforehand political decisions, no control mechanisms coming from the local society, ridiculing of jurisdiction control given to relevant authorities, etc.

The direct economic benefits from this project are minimal, the long- and short-term profits are questionable, and the investment’s future will be depending on accidental factors and the international market’s fluctuations. The whole thing may at anytime take the form of a real estate stock market or a land resale development. Of course all profits go to the ones that present themselves today as the purchasers of public land in bargain prices. There is an effort to export to Crete the “Majorca’s development model”, which is subdued and totally depended on foreign capital.

The Belgian project will function according to Majorca’s standards, i.e. as a closed economic system (in a matter of speech we can resemble is as a model of “stabling tourism”), which exports profit instead of reinvesting it on Crete’s local economy.

We are dealing with an area in Greece, which is offering a good perspective for high-income jobs. The aforementioned investment offers non-specialised, low-paid, insufficiently insured, part-time seasonal jobs for the local community.

We declare:

- Development cannot exist, when local people do not have access to the right of speech for important decisions concerning their future.

We ask:

- How positive – from the economic point of view – is the development that sells capital assets like land and water? Especially when the profit that will come out of this will just be temporary.
 
- How positive are the investments that accumulate profits for a few people and problems to the rest?
 
- Does a local authority have the right to decide about changes of land use and the modification of the profile of a protected European habitat?
 
- How are possible investments like these to take place without the presentation and judgement in public of the environmental, economical and sociological studies?

The future development road of Greece depends on the conservation and protection of strategic natural sources, like land and water. These sources are basic and must not be granted without thought. 

Ecological Society of Heraklion
opi@ecocrete.gr

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