NEWS

Drive to protect Aegean islands

In a belated drive to save the Aegean Islands’ traditional architecture and landscapes from unchecked building activity, the government will continue to introduce tough restrictions on construction throughout the archipelago, Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis said yesterday. «Drastic action is required to protect the Aegean,» Sifounakis told a press conference in Athens. «The unrestricted building activity of the past few years reflects attempts to exploit the flow of tourists to the islands, the tendency to acquire second or third homes and, through that, the acquisition of income mainly from the rental of holiday flats of questionable beauty and quality,» he added, pointing out that some 7,000 new building permits are issued in the Aegean Islands every year. The minister said tourist arrivals in the archipelago have rocketed from 3.2 million in 1991 to 6.6 million in 1999. Myconos alone, he said, receives 500,000 visitors each year, while its permanent population is no more than 9,500 people. Under a series of presidential decrees, restrictions are to be imposed on building both in and outside designated settlements in the archipelago. Lower ceilings are to be imposed on the total area of homes that may be built as well as on the height of new structures, while new buildings may not depart drastically from local architecture. So far, decrees have been issued for Serifos, Kythnos, Halki, Nisyros, Tilos, Karpathos, Paros, Folegandros, Lesvos and Lemnos, while 284 settlements have been listed for protection.