Island wetlands to be protected by new law

A bill to protect wetlands on Greece?s islands has been drawn up by the Environment Ministry and was put to public consultation on Wednesday.

The draft law seeks to protect 368 small wetlands on 58 islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas. The wetlands are no bigger than 8 hectares each. Most (67) are on Crete, followed by 48 on Lesvos, 32 on Corfu, 27 on Evia and 20 on Rhodes.

The biggest wetland is at the mouth of Manikiati River on Evia. It covers 7.9 hectares. The smallest wetlands are less than 0.1 of a hectare.

The would-be law seeks to ban any kind of construction in these areas that is not for the express purpose of protecting them. It also prevents the building of any kind of road through the wetlands in question and prevents them from being drained.

Farmers will also be banned from planting new crops in any area that is designated as a wetland. Existing cultivations, however, will be allowed to continue as long as environmentally friendly pesticides and fertilizers are used.

In 2004, WWF Greece carried out the only study so far on island wetlands and recorded 782 such areas on 75 islands.

Most of the island wetlands are coastal and their total area is 45 square kilometers. Apart from their value for irrigation and provision of freshwater, the wetlands protect coastal areas from groundwater salinization, according to WWF Greece analyst Dimitris Poursanidis. The wetlands also host a wide variety of plants and animals.

Poursanidis adds that the wetlands are extremely important for millions of migratory birds each year and are critical to the survival of endemic freshwater fish species, including the Ladigesocypris ghigii on Rhodes, as well as the two frog species Pelophylax cerigensis on Karpathos and Pelophylax cretensis on Crete, and a very large number of invertebrates.

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