Danger for Greek wetland

Sit-In on Corfu

Many citizens of Corfu are against the project. Sit-In in April 2021.

© Elena Kipriotis
Fish threaten by Environmental destruction

The Mediterranean killifish belongs to a few species of the family of Cyprinodontidae that occur outside tropical Africa on the coasts of the Mediterranean regions, such as Erimitis. Its future in this area is uncertain if the nature-destructive project is not stopped.

Mediterranean environmental organizations, among others EuroNatur, have joined forces as members of the Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands to urge Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to intervene to prevent the devastation of Corfu’s Erimitis peninsula and its vital wetland habitats through the proposed construction of a tourist resort.

This follows a previous letter sent to Mr Mitsotakis in October 2020 on the same topic, which did not receive a response. The Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands has issued a Red Alert warning for Erimitis, recognizing that its Vromolimni and Akoli wetlands are important sites to protect within the Mediterranean Basin and that they are facing an emerging threat.

The Alliance’s latest letter notes that Erimitis is not only a site of great natural beauty, and full of life, but that it also provides key ecological services to people, such as improvement of water quality and protection against storms. As one of Corfu’s few remaining unspoiled natural environments, Erimitis contains remarkable habitats for nature, including three very important coastal wetlands which are protected by a Greek Presidential Decree. The wetlands are a vital ‘stopover’ for migratory birds, classified as threatened and protected under the EU Birds Directive, and also home to numerous species protected by the EU Habitats Directive such as the European pond terrapin and dice snake.

Despite its importance, the future of Erimitis is threatened by the proposed ‘Kassiopi Project’ tourist development which could have serious implications not only on the ecosystem but also for local people through noise and water pollution, as well as loss of enjoyment of these remaining well-conserved spaces. The letter highlights that protecting wetlands such as those in Erimitis requires implementation of sustainable tourism management and conservation measures as nature-based solutions to reduce the effects of climate change, to secure clean water, food and human wellbeing, and to protect nature.

The Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands’ letter notes that preliminary deforestation and clearing have now begun at the site and that heavy machinery passed through the boundaries of the protected wetland Vromolimni and constructed a road on the wetland shore. Consequently, the letter implores the Prime Minister to urgently reconsider the development and to implement appropriate conservation measures, including:

  • The designation of this area as a protected area, with permission only for activities that would not alter the ecological properties of wetlands, such as hiking and nature observation.
  • The adoption of conservation measures for the protection of specific habitats and species in line with the Bonn and Bern Convention and the EU nature Directives.
  • The effective implementation of the presidential decree 229/AAP/2012 regarding small island wetlands and appropriate measures for the protection of these wetlands.

The letter concludes by urging the Greek Government, as the global tourism industry reopens post-Covid, to embrace ecologically-compatible tourism and demonstrate world leadership in promoting sustainable development which considers local needs and wishes, and adheres to international and EU law.

Background Information:
The Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands is a consortium of NGOs and research institutions which was formally established in January 2017. It aims to raise collectively the profile of wetlands in Mediterranean society at large and in particular in national, regional and international policy through the promotion of their sustainable use, based on innovation and evidence-based best practices as a catalyst for change.

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