Home News Greece announces new plan to protect some of its pristine beaches

Greece announces new plan to protect some of its pristine beaches

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The Greek government on Friday published a list of 198 “untouched beaches” that it said are now closed to bars, restaurants and large public gatherings, in the latest attempt to curb development and address backlash from tourists flooding into the country. coastline every year.

The move comes amid growing dissatisfaction among residents of Greek islands and parts of the coastal mainland popular with foreign tourists. Last summer, protests evolved into a nationwide “beach towel movement” as disgruntled locals complained that businesses were trying to take advantage of the tourism boom and drive them off their beaches. Greece had 32 million foreign tourists last year.

On the country’s Cyclades islands, local residents have joined forces with authorities to fight back a wave. put up.

Greece’s conservative government has pledged to crack down on development and beachfront businesses that flout regulations. In February, Greece passed a law aimed at regulating the use of the country’s coastline, imposing fines of up to 60,000 euros on businesses that occupy more than 50% of Greece’s beaches with parasols and sunbeds.

Critics say the law does not go far enough to curb the problem, with some claiming the government is perpetuating the problem by failing to address illegal land use more comprehensively.

The Greek government said the list of “untouched beaches” published in a joint agreement between Greece’s finance, environment and energy ministers was part of a wider effort to restore balance. “The main goal is to combine environmental protection with sustainable development,” Economy and Finance Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Friday.

“The environment is an important part of Greece’s tourism product,” he said.

Hatzidakis said that under the new measures, the government would subject public assets to “a strict framework of rules, penalties and obligations.” He added that inspections and transparency would increase, as would “enforcement of the law”.

The beaches on the list are in areas within the EU’s Natura programme, a network of vulnerable habitats across Europe protected by European law. The beaches listed on Friday include those on popular islands such as Milos, Naxos, Lesbos, Samothrace and the southern Peloponnese.

The islands were chosen based on recommendations from the country’s natural environment and climate change agency and were “areas of high ecological importance,” Environment and Energy Minister Theodoros Skylarkakis said on Friday.

Under the new measures, no part of these beaches can be auctioned for commercial use, and the placement of sun loungers and parasols is prohibited, as is the organization of public events with more than 10 people.

Another initiative launched by the government is a new app called ‘MyCoast’ where people can report breaches.

Some environmentalists in Greece were unimpressed with Friday’s announcement. Naxos resident Eleni Andrianopoulou, a member of the local Save the Beaches group, said the government’s initial plan was to cover more than 1,000 beaches across the country, adding that the Natura region needed “real protection of”.

“We have stressed from the outset that this reform of untouched beaches is a sham.”

Demetre Karavellas, director of WWF Greece, said authorities were being too hasty in listing pristine beaches, noting that more than 100 marine and coastal areas in Greece have received the Natura program Recognized, but not yet approved. be effectively managed or protected.

“The government should first comply with its basic legal obligations before creating new vague protection categories,” he said.

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