Tourism plan under fire

The government’s special zoning plan for tourism, which authorities say will boost development while protecting the environment, is too vague to protect Greece from the «concretization» that has ruined much of Spain, conservationists, civil engineers and even entrepreneurs have told Kathimerini. «The plan’s goals are very general and overshadowed by a sense of competitiveness,» according to Ilias Beriatos, president of the Greek Association of Urban and Regional Planners. The leader of the state Association of Regional Development Scientists, Christos Ladias, is also cautious about the plan drafted by the Environment and Public Works Ministry. «It needs improvement and clarification, including a determination of what activities will be permitted in Natura (or European Union-protected) areas,» Ladias said. Even some businessmen involved in tourism are concerned about the impact of the plan. According to Gerasimos Fokas, president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, the plan «is general and unclear, allowing the use of land for tourism everywhere, without prerequisites or restrictions.» But the most vocal in their criticism are the conservationists. A consortium of environmental groups, including Greenpeace and WWF Hellas, issued a statement condemning the zoning plan for «treating tourism as an activity chiefly connected to public works and favoring large-scale projects such as golf courses and large hotel complexes… without considering the need to protect the natural environment.» The ministry has stressed many times that the plan aims to promote tourism development alongside environmental protection, creating different zones for different levels of development. But many believe that these zones are not strictly delineated and that, in practice, exemptions would be granted to large developers. There are also concerns that islands with a high level of tourism infrastructure will be opened up to even more construction and that smaller and relatively undeveloped islands, and the mainland’s coastline, will become fair game for construction firms.