Tentacles of urbanization creep across Greece

It took decades for governments to accept what experts had been telling them, that any interference with a landscape must be carried out with care and proper planning. And it took decades for us to realize that we are not entitled to deprive coming generations of what we had inherited. In other words, once we had burnt, destroyed, built on and used the land, we realized that land itself is a form of cultural capital, and if it loses that quality then it can give nothing. The need arose for the land to be re-evaluated and returned to those uses that gave it a measure of protection, and for resistance to the extreme pressure to build on it. The European research program Artemis, «for the recognition and evaluation of the Mediterranean landscape,» recently completed by six universities and research institutes in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Greece, meets this need. The program, which was coordinated by the University of Barcelona, involved the selection sample areas. They chose one large area of at least 20 square kilometers (13 square miles) in size which is close to large cities and under pressure from development, and four smaller, fairly representative areas in different parts of the country. The Greek participant was the Geography Department of Harokopeion University, with a team of scientists and teachers under the direction of Professor Costis Hadzimichalis. They chose the area around Lavrion for their large sample, and Edo Gonia on Santorini, Louronisida in the Acheloos Delta, Panaghia on Thasos and Vizitsa on Pelion for their four small samples. The vast amount of data gathered from eight large and 32 small areas in southeastern Europe permits a comparison of the characteristics of the Mediterranean environment, the pressures on these areas, and how and why they respond to those pressures. There are considerable differences in how the areas are managed, ranging from the more anarchic fashion of Greece and southern Italy to the more strictly structured and ordered methods of France. It was the first time the Greek team had worked on this subject in a scientific manner. It remains to be seen whether the Greek State will make use of their research; whether anything is learned from the way France or the Balearic Islands protect the landscape or from the way that areas in Costa Brava, Perpignan and Tarragona are being restored after the authorities realized the damage that had been done to them. And it is hard to say whether the State will act on the Greek team’s work, which reveals the secrets and unexploited charms of a disregarded area, and predicts the pressures on it, both in the near and more distant future.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.