WWF Greece warns of ‘unchecked construction’

The promotion of big investments, particularly in Greece’s tourism industry, has kept environmental concerns on the back burner, the local branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a report released Monday, slamming the government for repeated violations of the environmental rulebook.

Unveiled at the conservation organization’s Athens headquarters, the annual study of the rollback in Greece’s environmental legislation warned about the continuation of unchecked construction and the legalization of illegally built properties even in ecologically sensitive areas. The report, now in its 10th year, also slammed ministries for pushing legislation tailored to the needs of specific business interests.

“The legalization of illegal buildings, even in protected areas like the Schinias National Park [northeast of Athens], and the promotion of tourism units in areas like Kyparisia [Bay in the western Peloponnese], a nesting place for the Caretta caretta sea turtle, are characteristic of the government’s growth model,” said Theodota Nantsou, environmental policy coordinator of WWF Greece.

Greece’s conservative-led coalition recently came under fire for tabling legislation for a new zoning plan right after Parliament’s summer sessions began and for subsequently passing a new forestry bill in July allowing more scope for construction in forested areas. Government officials have said the new measures are part of the debt-hit nation’s commitments to its foreign lenders.

“In crisis-hit Greece a new development plan with no future is being readied from old materials. They see the country as a vessel for endless new building and other intensive activity,” said WWF Greece director Dimitris Karavellas.

However, it was not all bad news as the report noted progress in promoting the country’s national strategy for biodiversity while welcoming a ruling by the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, that buried a controversial project to divert Greece’s second-biggest river, the Acheloos.

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