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Overdevelopment in Mykonos: Locals Outraged by Giant Beach Wall

Mykonos beach
A beach in Mykonos, where the issues of overdevelopment and illegal construction projects have come to the forefront of public debate. Credit: Bgabel / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0

Locals have been angered by the appearance of a wall on Panormos Beach, Mykonos, amid a spate of overdevelopment and illegal building activities on the island.

The wall was erected just a month after Greek archaeologist Manolis Psarros was severely beaten by assailants in Athens. Psarros later alleged that the hit was ordered by criminal groups operating on Mykonos who are involved in illegal construction projects.

In the aftermath of the violent incident, the Greek government vowed to address organized crime and rampant construction activities across the island. However, the appearance of a vast wall cutting across the beachfront of Panormos and the local reaction to it is a very visual reminder that many Mykonians are discontent with recent developments on their island.

The wall on Panormos Beach

The appearance of the wall on Panormos Beach, which blocks half of the sandy waterfront, has provoked strong reactions from locals.

The construction of the wall is reportedly associated with a bar operating on the beachfront. According to local media, the beach bar has previously faced complaints and legal action over excessive urban development in the area, but this seemingly did little to stop the appearance of a massive wall, which has some locals fuming.

One local businessman who spoke to the publication on the condition of anonymity spoke of developer “heavyweights” who were responsible for overdevelopment and in some cases illegal building activities on the island.

The businessmen spoke of a sense of hopelessness among the locals, who are too anxious to confront the developers, adding, “Some people in Mykonos feel like little gods and from what it seems, no one is going to stop them.”

Illegal construction and overdevelopment controversy on Mykonos

mykonos windmills
Mykonos island, Cyclades Group. Credit: Dronepicr/Flickr CC BY 2.0

The appearance of the wall across the Panormos beachfront is just the latest example of what many critics have described as an overdevelopment problem on the island, exacerbated by construction activities that have taken place without the proper legal requirements.

The issue was brought into sharp focus in March when it emerged that Manolis Psarros, an employee of the Ephorate of Antiquities of the Cyclades, was severely beaten and hospitalized in Athens.

As a part of his work related to the preservation, protection, and safekeeping of antiquities, Mr. Psarros oversees approvals for building permits for hotels and entertainment centers, and is responsible for registering infringements and illegal constructions.

Since the attack, speculation has grown that Mr. Psarros was singled out because of his work overseeing building permits, which may have prevented mafia-style criminal organizations from going ahead with lucrative building plans.

“Everything about this attack is indicative of how out-of-control the situation in Mykonos has become,” said Despoina Koutsoumba, who presides over the Association of Greek Archaeologists. “It’s clear, as there are no other motives, that this was a Mafiosi-style hit executed by people who followed Manolis from work. It’s about huge business interests and was aimed at striking fear into the hearts of archaeologists.”

Government response

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis later responded to the incident by insisting that the “situation must be addressed decisively.”

The government decided to send a mixed team of specialists made up of a building inspector, an environmental inspector, and a financial police officer to Mykonos to investigate illegal construction projects and inadequate law enforcement.

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