The battle to protect and promotePindus’s 250-kilometer wilderness

THESSALONIKI – Almost the entire spine of the Pindus range is due to become a national park that will be the largest protected area in Greece. Work is already under way to implement the plans of the Environment Ministry for Pindus, the mountain range that straddles mainland Greece and is noted for its beauty and ecological significance. A joint ministerial decision has designated the mountains of the northern Pindus a national park. And a few days ago, the special environmental study designating Tzoumerka as a national park was presented in Ioanna. «The next step,» said Deputy Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis in Thessaloniki, «is to include the Grammos range so that all of Pindus comprises one large protected area.» The final plan makes Pindus the largest protected area in Greece. At 250 kilometers long and 70 kilometers wide, it supplies two-thirds of the country’s population with water. Most of the Pindus area is an exceptional natural environment that also possesses a rich architectural heritage and is a great ecological resource not only for Greece but also for the European Union. The range is made up of rocky slopes, spectacular, lofty peaks, permanent and seasonal waterfalls, numerous springs and mountain lakes. The presence of the serpentine rock that is typical of the area and of plentiful surface water favor the growth of many endemic flora. World Wildlife Fund-Hellas reports that 1,750 species and subspecies of plants and 250 species of vertebrates have been recorded in the Pindus. Among them are the brown bear, wild goat, wolf, deer, wild cat, otter, small adder and many species of birds including the golden eagle, bearded vulture and Eurasian eagle owl. The inhabitants of the Pindus seem to be adapting to the new circumstances created by the adoption of more modern business practices to highlight the northern Pindus in recent years. The platform for developing the area without interfering with its beauty or threatening its sensitive ecosystems is an 80-million-euro program for the sustainable development of the northern and central Pindus. The aim is to provide a model for developing and promoting tourism and other economic activity in a protected area that requires proper management. The regional administrations of Western Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly are participating in the program, which is a pilot project for similar development initiatives in disadvantaged mountain areas. In the northern Pindus alone, the project may benefit 100 villages and two small towns. The area where the program is to be implemented includes such development resources such as ski centers (Vassilitsa in Grevena, Metsovo in Ioannina, and Pertoulio in Trikala), the national parks of Pindus, Vikos-Aoos, Natura areas and others that already cater to tourism such as Papingo, Zagorohoria, Metsovo, Elati and Pertouli and the area around Vassilitsa. «Already 53 infrastructure projects have been incorporated into the project; we have also asked for the inclusion of projects budgeted at 59 million euros and 14 budget studies of 1.3 million euros,» Andreas Leoudis, secretary general of the administration of Western Macedonia, told Kathimerini. The main objectives of the Pindus project are as follows: – Improving infrastructure and the quality of life (with emphasis on projects linking areas that belong to different administrative departments). – Boosting the productive environment (spearheaded by tourism and the production of high-quality products and foods for visitors to buy). – Highlighting and promoting the natural and cultural heritage (churches, bridges, water mills, springs and buildings listed for preservation). – Upgrading the labor force, mobilizing people in the area to start new businesses or boost traditional ones whose continuation requires learning new methods.

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