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Petition to Save Kavo Sidero archaeological and natural landscape in Crete, Greece

Petition to the Prime Minister of Greece: "We support the court appeal launched in May 2016 by citizens of Crete and environmental, archaeological, and other organisations, to save the unique archaeological and natural landscape of Kavo Sidero in East Crete. The proposed golf resort development is going to affect an area which has been designated by the European Union a NATURA area twice, and in need of special protection. It has been also declared a UNESCO Geopark."

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This is an old and very complicated saga, going back at least to 1989, a politically turbulent year in Greece which saw the election of a pro-investment, right-wing government led by a Cretan. Essentially whenever a right-wing government was in...

This is an old and very complicated saga, going back at least to 1989, a politically turbulent year in Greece which saw the election of a pro-investment, right-wing government led by a Cretan. Essentially whenever a right-wing government was in power (1990-1993, 2004-2009, 2011-2014), the project was slowly progressing through the legal hurdles the environmental movement of Crete and to a far lesser extent, the local community as a whole, were raising, and at other times it stalled. Now, for the first time, we have an interesting situation whereby a leftist-led coalition is, in effect, fast-tracking the project!

The Euros 250 m., 2212 ha, development (Itanos Gaia) which is supposed to generate 1,200 new full-time jobs has already been approved by a presidential decree and currently seems to enjoy, for better or for worse, local backing. The current, latest, appeal, signed by the Greek Archeologists Union, the Greek Society for the Protection of Nature, the Hellenic Ornithological Society and members of the network among others, against the presidential decree of 7 March 2016 which greenlights the project, is on the (probably weak, legal) grounds that the area has been declared a protected area (it has, but only on paper) and that the law governing private tourism mega-developments is unconstitutional (small-print in a country now governed by a nominally leftist-led coalition government which follows the Troika's pro-growth diktats). The appeal is scheduled to be heard on July 4, 2016, by the Council of State (Symvoulio tis Epikrateias) and will probably be rejected, although the judges on the Council of State sometimes produce pleasant surprises.

The land comprises the north-eastern most tip of Crete, north of the palm beach of Vai which is the largest natural palm forest in Europe (comprising of the near-threatened Phoenix theofrasti - Cretan date palm) which since the Ottoman era, belonged (some dispute this) to the Monastery of Toplou, itself a tourist attraction rather than an active monastic community. This is a barren land with sandy beaches and some cultural attractions, in theory, suitable for low-key Mediterranean-style tourism. Some archaeologists (including the prestigious World Archaeological Congress ( who expressed their opposition to this development in a letter to the Greek PM on 23 June 2016), claim that this erstwhile, isolated area is an open-air museum as it includes, largely unexcavated (see, remnants of dwellings and uninterrupted farming and mining practices from ancient times through to the medieval period, along with interesting fossils and rocks. What is still unclear is if this arid peninsula is the best environmental as well as investment choice for building 3 golf courses, a desalination plant to water them, 5 holiday villages, 7,000 beds, marinas, landing strips and so on. Is it for long-term sustainable development and local prosperity, or a quick-buck (sell the houses) scheme?

The whole north-eastern tip of Crete and the adjacent small islands supposedly have been declared a protected area (in essence a paper park without an administrative body or management plan) and included in the Natura 2000 European Protected Areas Network (official code GR4320006). It should be noted that the Natura 2000 network also includes farmed and densely populated coastal areas of various degrees of protection (See and It was also recognised along with the whole region of Siteia, as a Unesco Global Geopark in September 2015 - for the time being this translates into an info centre housed in a converted old village school - the geopark designation may be harder to defend with the three golf courses of course one never knows how these organisations really work... (See and

The local municipalities of Itanos and Siteia were in the early 2000s largely against the development, of its giant size or its ownership, and along with vocal environmental NGOs and an international campaign succeeded in annulling a favourable ministerial decision in 2007 by a pro-investment right-wing government, through an appeal in the Supreme Administrative Court (Symvoulio tis Epikrateias) in December 2010 (the decision took three years!). The now-governing Syriza party, then in opposition, was totally against the Cavo Sidero development alleging corruption and opaqueness. Alas, the developers persisted and rapidly submitted a new, slightly more modest project, to the 'Invest in Greece' agency in March 2011 under a new 'fast-track' law.

Fast forward to 2016, after 8 years of acute crisis, at a time of high unemployment (latest, December 2015 data: 24% overall in Greece, 24.8% in Crete - youth unemployment 48.9% in December 2015, even higher for young women) it is hard for someone who needs a job, even a menial one, urgently to grasp the inherent environmental value of pristine, undeveloped environments and paper geoparks, or even the long-term benefits of low-key, sustainable development. For better or for worse, today there is very little, or at least visible opposition in Siteia against this long-promoted and delayed (23 years) development by a British company on land contributed by the local church with the blessing of powerful, right-wing politicians. The development, following various small pro-environment modifications, is now apparently supported by a number of local trade and professional unions ( ) and no longer opposed by local and regional authorities. The leftist-led coalition government, which significantly includes a member of the Greek Greens as Alternate Minister for the Environment, has abandoned, about a year ago, fiery talk including opposition to pharaonic tourism development and mining projects.

The only thing that could possibly postpone or scale down this development are the possible repercussions of Brexit, and the general turmoil in the eastern Med, on the developers, an unknown and untested but surprisingly persistent and well-connected entity. I believe I also read somewhere that other well-connected tourism investors are planning similar projects in the same area, once the final legal hurdles are removed and friendly politicians return to power. Sic transit Cavo Sidero?

Also see: Photosphere from one of the beaches

Satellite Map

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Comment was last edited about 4 years ago by Antonis Petropoulos Antonis Petropoulos
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