Cretan resort case to be heard

Hundreds of Cretan residents and environmentalists protesting plans for the construction of a huge tourism complex on the island’s unspoilt northwestern coast will have their joint appeal against the project heard by the country’s highest administrative court tomorrow. Protesters claim that the Cavo Sidero project – that would comprise five holiday villages, a string of luxury hotels and three golf courses – would damage the environment and be a heavy drain on water resources. Campaigners had lobbied the government to boycott the project by British property development company Minoan Group (formerly Loyalward Limited), writing letters to 11 different ministries, but authorities have encouraged the 1.2-billion-euro investment. Residents of Crete, much of which already suffers periods of drought in summer, say the plan would be devastating for the arid island. Even local farming cooperatives have joined the protest, complaining that they already struggle with dwindling water resources. «The more time goes by, the more people begin to realize what is actually being planned for the area and start doubting the benefits of this initiative,» said Nikos Kyfonidis, president of the Ierapetra Ecological Group. Kyfonidis doubts the validity of an agreement that has allowed Minoan to lease some 2,600 hectares for 80 years, saying that «new evidence throws into doubt the credibility of this controversial contract.» The cause of local residents and environmentalists has been embraced by several foreign academics. Oliver Rackham, a Cambridge University ecology professor, told Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the project was «grotesquely unsuited to… one of the most arid places in Europe.» «The development is unsustainable because of the huge amounts of water that will be needed,» Rackham said. Minoan Group’s chairman Christopher Egleton insists that the resort will be built on only 1 percent of the site, will be «fully sustainable» and will benefit the local community in the long term.

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