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The "Ecocrete" Network interference in the Meeting about the big tourist investments in East. Crete Εκτύπωση Αποστολή με e-mail
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ECOCRETE , Δευτέρα, 13 Φεβρουάριος 2006

The Pan-Cretan Network of Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations, “ECOCRETE”, interference in the Meeting about the big tourist investments in Eastern Crete, Sitia, 27/01/2006

The Pan-Cretan Network of Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations, “Ecocrete” is the coordinative body of eight Environmental NGOs from all Crete’s prefectures. One from Chania, two from Rethimno, two from Heraklion and three from Lassithi. Under its present formation, it has been established since 2004. During this brief period of time, it has presented worthwhile work due to the vigour of the groups that constitute it and due to the need for action in common and unity of the environmental well-disposed powers in our island. The network “Ecocrete” constantly issues a journal and maintains a remarkable website, both of them source of important information.

In front of the general planning of big tourist investments, which necessarily include golf courses all over Crete, the network organised last year in May 2005 a scientific meeting under the heading: “Golf-courses: What kind of development do we want?” It invited to the meeting important scientists of international prestige, who talked about the consequences from the creation of golf courses and big tourist investments on ecosystems and cultural landscapes, such as those of Crete and also about the possibility of a really mild touristic development. It was the first time that in Greece the speculation on the compatibility of golf-links with the environment, the landscape and the culture of our country has ever been set on such grounds. The proposals and the conclusions from the meeting are in public disposal either via the website or in printed form.

Pondering over the conclusions drawn from that meeting, we began the examination of each situation separately of over than ten big tourist investments with multiple golf courses that are planned to be made in Crete. In each case, we discovered serious negative consequences in many sectors, we found out incompatibility according to the legislated land-planning, land-grabbing and exploitation of protected, under international treaties, areas, spoliations of the fundamental water and ground resources, intensification of the procedure of desolation and brackishness, asymmetrical building craze, asymmetrical demands in energy and infrastructure and intense distortion of the landscape. Moreover, we discovered dangers for the local economy, either in tourist or the agricultural sector, disturbance of the social web and overturning of the population data and the sustainability of the reception areas.

All those negative features and many more, we also find out in the big investments that are planned in the area of Sitia. Although the investors want to appear friendly towards environment and seeking, in parallel, local community’s consensus, studying the pieces of the research they present, we can’t stay impassive, at least, in front of the following three very important, in our view, problems.

First: The investors in “Kavo Sidero” assert that their proposal is a plan of sustainable development. However, they use a definition of sustainable development adapted to their plans. They circumvent, as we’ll see further down, significant principles like the need for mild ranges, the fundamental principle of preservation, the maintenance of a steady environmental situation (adequacy, availability, and quality of the natural resources), economical (income, employment) and socio-cultural prosperity (education, health, life-quality, coherence ties, identity).

Second: According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Crete is ranked as one of the most sensitive ecosystems. Greece has signed the Convention, has drawn up the “Greek Plan of Action Against Desertification” and it has created the “National Committee for Combating Desertification”. We take it for granted that the construction of golf courses in areas with a high danger index of desertification and with the dry-thermal climate – such as Crete’s and even more Eastern Crete’s – is, from many points of view, unacceptable and dangerous. The removal of the valuable brushwood vegetation that sustains the scant ground and its replacement by grass is a practice that “guarantees” the erosion and desertification of, theoretically, protected areas. What will happen, when, in the first chance (e.g. crisis in tourism or in economy) the golf-links stop irrigating? Wind and rain quickly will leach the soil away. But the ground in those vulnerable ecosystems is valuable. As it is known, in order a cen
timetre of ground to be created 500 to 1,000 years are needed. Any procedure that leads to soil waste is considered as a crime.

The demands of golf courses for water and soil resources are immense and investors know it very well. That is why they present in their research the demands for water limited to the half, claiming that they are to irrigate the courses with water from desalination plants. However, this water is very expensive, energy-consuming and it includes the danger of salting the ground. And who will be in the position of checking the origin and quality of the irrigated water?

We should not overlook the fact that golf courses are, by definition, aesthetically, culturally and environmentally foreign to the Cretan landscape, and particularly Eastern Crete’s. The incorporation of the area of a golf course into the existing landscape is an inversion of the comparative advantage itself of Sitia’s landscape, from many points of view.

Third: The investments in Kavo Sidero, like in other areas, are incompatible with the Regional Framework of Urban Planning and Sustainable Development of Crete. This Framework schedules, for the area of the cape, the elaboration of management plans, in order to be protected, while for areas more southern than the NATURA 2000 Network it schedules a mild tourist development. However, the proposed investments cannot be regarded, on any occasion, as mild development. Eleven thousand (11,000) beds and the proportionate infrastructure, in a region of 2,500 citizens, certainly overthrow its population model and its character, disintegrate the productive bondages and mainly the agricultural economy and destroy irreparably the environment.

All the above are a summary of our objections, focused on the most basic issues. The Pan-Cretan Network of Environmental NGOs, “Ecocrete”, has already put in a plea to the Study of Environmental Impacts of the investment in Kavo Sidero, in which it has pointed out all those points, where there are serious law, institutional, financial and environmental problems.

A question is posed: Some may wonder if, despite the many and irreversible problems the investments will bring to our native land, there is anything we can benefit from. Will we have any financial profits? The answer is very simple. Closed-type tourism, where everything is prepaid by the clients in their country of residence, where the investors import all the equipment, several from foodstuffs, technology and consumables, has a few things to offer to local economy.

Apart from that, the development, which is proposed by the investors’ plans, will divert the area into an activity model outside its natural and historical scale and it also harbours, except all the other dangers, the business danger of an investment subject to the fluctuations of the international competition, that, in case of success or failure, will have brought to the area irreversible modifications.

Furthermore, there is another question: What do you finally suggest? Are you against any kind of development? What else could be done in order the area to thrive? And here easily comes the answer, under the principles of sustainable development:

Sustainable development aims at the transition and conservation of steady sufficiency and quality of the natural resources that will ensure prosperity with adequate and stable income, employment, education, health, quality of life, social coherence bonds and protection of local identity. The maintenance of healthy environment, adequacy of natural resources and cultural identity, so for the present as for the future, are necessary conditions for the support of human activity, the range of selections and the fair distribution of cost and utility to individuals and groups.

The attainment of local sustainable development in our area, an area with natural and cultural wealth of exceptional importance, presupposes strategic planning, which will take into account the principle of prevention, the international conventions, the European Directives and the national law.

These principles and conventions do not constitute an obstacle, but they are a tool for the future. We do not need to encroach them in order to achieve prosperity but to defend and abide by them, and we should do this by our own efforts and choices. There are high prospects of mild and healthy development and primarily in: 1) the agricultural sector with the competitive quality, clarity, identity and variety of the products of our land through the application of a good agricultural practice and biological farming methods, and 2) tourism with the development of small and medium-size agro-tourist units and qualitative, thematic tourism via the protection and promotion of the landscape, natural environment and cultural wealth.

Before any investing plan, what is necessary to be preceded is research that will draw conclusions such as Special Environmental Studies and Studies of Local Urban- and Land-Planning, without being defined by specific investing plans and they will also lay down the conditions on the basis of which investing plans can be carried out. Towards this direction, it is very important to take advantage of the significant experience of the area, which was acquired through Sitia’s Organisation for Development and has not been yet valued, as it had to be.

Today is a chance to take advantage of the coincidence, which on the one hand liberalises more the markets and cultivates pessimism about the possibility of self-purification of local communities, but on the other hand it allows the vindication to strong and clear voices that invoke vested interests and promote visions. And Eastern Crete has many stories to narrate and to demand its prospects’ fulfilment.

ECOCRETE
Pan-Cretan Network of Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations
Ecological Society of Ierapetra
Ecological Society of Heraklion
Ecological Society of Phoinikas Municipality
Ecological Society of Oreino Makry Gialos Municipality
Ecological Society of Hania
Enviromental Society of Rethymnon
Society for the Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources and the Settlement of Energy Question of Crete

www.ecocrete.gr
diktyo@ecocrete.gr

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