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Integrated mediterranean programmes and the natural environment: A case study in Greece

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A pilot action forming part of the Integrated Mediterranean Programmes (IMPs) was carried out in Prespa National Park, Greece, to improve the socio-economic conditions in the area and to develop the agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and tourism. A study on the environment of the park was carried out as part of this Programme. The study evaluated the natural conditions in the area, assessed the effects of the proposed operations on the environment, suggested opportunities for socio-economic improvement and provided guidelines for the organisation of the National Park. This paper presents certain aspects of this study and describes the mechanisms and conflicts attached to environmental conservation during implementation of the IMP.

Evaluation of natural conditions was made possible by studying the land cover/use changes between 1945 and 1984 using aerial photographs. It showed a continuing concentration of land use activities in the wetland, which is the nucleus of the park. The most alarming findings were of soil erosion on the watershed, accelerating ageing and eutrophication of the lake, and destruction of the wet meadows. Evaluation of the latter revealed their remarkable biological value as feeding and resting habitats of the rare waterbird species.

Assessment of the effects of the projected operations on the environment was accompanied by suggestions of alleviation measures. Further development of agriculture and an expansion of the irrigation system were expected to have a severe impact on the wetland and increase the eutrophic level of the lake. Measures for cultural practices, policy and education of the farmers were suggested. It was recognised that the projected fish breeding station would also have adverse effects on the wetland, the lake and its fisheries. Construction of the hatchery on the particular site chosen by the authorities was to cause major environmental degradation in the park.

Despite the documentation provided, proposals stemming from the study and mitigation measures were disregarded. Implementation of the IMP operations had detrimental ecological effects in the area. From the first stages of the Programme, and throughout its implementation, secrecy prevailed in the procedures. There was no participation of the public nor of the local government. Lack of coordination appeared between the various levels of administration nationally and within the European Community (EC). Agencies concerned with the environment lost their jurisdiction in the area, as all decision-making was undertaken in Athens by a Ministry relatively insensitive to environmental issues. Implementation of the IMP in Prespa violated national and EC legislation as well as international treaties concerning the environment. The development plan had been prepared without integrating conservation and development while no concern was given to the impact on the environment. Lessons learned from the Prespa case should be used to improve IMPs and make development sustainable.

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Dr Myrto Pyrovetsi obtained her doctorate at Michigan State University, USA and is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

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Pyrovetsi, M. Integrated mediterranean programmes and the natural environment: A case study in Greece. Environmentalist 9, 201–211 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02240470

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  • Soil Erosion
  • European Community
  • Aerial Photograph
  • Irrigation System
  • Mitigation Measure