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Greek Beaches: New Bill Allows Construction on the Coastline

Greek Beaches
A beach on the stunning island of Skopelos, where the blockbuster movie Mamma Mia was filmed. Credit: Greek Reporter

Environmental organizations are calling on the government to withdraw controversial provisions in a bill on Greek beaches that was tabled in a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

Eight groups signed a letter saying the new bill will remove the minimum protection limit of 30 meters from the coastline. This would therefore allow construction right on the sea.

They say that as other Mediterranean countries such as France and Spain establish protected coastal zones that start from 100 meters and reach up to 250 meters from the shore, Greece is doing the opposite by abolishing the minimum protection limit of 30 meters.

Setback zones of at least 100 meters are required by all signatory countries of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, which has been ratified by the European Union but not Greece.

Greek beaches
The minimum distance for construction from the sea allowed in selected European countries. Credit: WWF

Small Greek beaches allocated to the hotels

The bill also removes the ban on the concession of “small coastal areas” (less than 5 meters in length or width, or less than 150 square meters in area).

The use of even these small isolated beaches will now be allocated to hotels.

The groups said the bill does not introduce any meaningful positive measures for the effective protection and management of the coastal zone, while crucial provisions related to climate change adaptation are missing. For example, there are no references to flood risks or other natural or man-made risks threatening the coastal and riparian zone.

The bill also fails to provide necessary safeguards and improve the framework for the immediate removal of illegal buildings along the coastline.

“In times of climate crisis, healthy coastlines are a protective shield for humans and the economy in the face of more and more frequent disasters,” it was said.

Coast in Greece “treated as land for housing and tourist development”

“The protection of coastal and marine ecosystems is the most efficient and impactful tool for climate resilience. Unfortunately, in Greece, coastal ecosystems are treated as land for housing and tourist development,” the eight groups said.

“Scientific knowledge and the recent past have shown that the continuous degradation of the coastal zone can only cause dramatic disasters and incalculable costs to the national economy in terms of the compensation that has to be paid afterward.”

They also called on the government to explicitly ban any individual or business responsible for illegal constructions from the right to apply for state aid and benefit from subsidies and other economic incentives.

The statement is signed by WWF Greece, Greenpeace, MEDASSET, the Society for the Protection of Prespa, Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, Hellenic Ornithological Society, Callisto, and the Ecological Recycling Society.

Related: ‘Reclaim the Beach’ Movement Gathers Pace in Greece

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