Villas going up illegally on shores of Mesolongi

It’s unbelievable but all too true: The head of the state land service in Aitoloacarnania, in the west of the country, has been transferred because he was trying to protect the property of the state and the national park of Mesolongi. An unprecedented ruling by the Finance Ministry has sparked the rage of the general supervisor of public administration, local agencies and environmental organizations which are all trying to do something about the more than 500 illegal buildings that have been built in the area. Illegal construction around Mesolongi lagoon has intensified over the past 20 years. Recently, locals claim, the means employed are the pelades, the raised wooden houses that local fishermen traditionally used. «All the villas that are built illegally on state property are presented as traditional pelades,» Napoleon Papadatos, the head of the Environmental Protection Association of Neohori Oinades, told Kathimerini. «In fact, the land-grabbers have set up two associations and seem to be putting pressure on local politicians.» «The state should revoke the permits of those associations since their objective is not legal,» public administration general inspector Leandros Rakitzis told Kathimerini. «There are many problems in the national park area. There are the self-styled pelades owners, who have encroached on public land and built villas. Then there are others who fence off expanses in the Lourou wetland so as to make use of them. If this state of affairs continues, we can expect a huge fine from the European Union.» Twenty months ago, Dimitris Daoulis was appointed head of the state land service in Aitoloacarnania. Daoulis increased fines for illegal use of the lagoon shore by 150 percent, issued 82 protocols for the demolition of illegal buildings (49 of which were sent to the prefecture because they concern land zones and 33 to the regional administration for illegal buildings on the shoreline). Despite his strenuous opposition, the Finance Ministry transferred him to another office, apparently yielding to pressure from the owners of the illegal buildings. «The Economy Ministry’s inspector in Patras, Ms Georgakopoulou, met the same fate. They took away her responsibility for Aitoloacarnania when she took action against land-grabbers,» Daoulis told Kathimerini. «Ever since I first took up the position, I have received threats against my own life and the lives of my children. I issued scores of demolition protocols for Tourlida, Dionis, Lourou and Rembaki, but none of them has been implemented. And now I get told I’m being transferred to the tax office in Agrinion.» The news enraged locals. «I’m really sorry; Mr Daoulis did a very good job,» said Rakitzis. «His transfer raises a lot of questions,» Aitoloacarnania Prefect Thymios Sokos told Kathimerini. «Mr Daoulis did his job properly,» added Mesolongi lagoon management agency head Ioannis Kalavrouziotis.

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