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Greece is a country going through a transition phase, as far as protected areas are concerned. The management of these areas moves from a central public system to a more local and participatory approach.
Since 1938, protected areas in Greece have been managed by the Forest Service. There have been no specialised administration units for this purpose and the management of protected areas has been one of the many responsibilities of the Forest Service. This system is described in the Greek Law 998/79, which also contains the general rules for forestry operations. There have been many difficulties in the efficiency of management, since over the last twenty years, the forest service has been operating with insufficient staff and funds. Wardening, management operations and the support from the public are the most problematic issues of this centrally coordinated system.
In the year 1985, the Law 1650/86 for the protection of the environment was established. A participatory approach was introduced for the management of protected areas. This law remained ineffective until 1999, due to the complicated procedures for the establishment of the new protected areas and the formation of the local management authorities. In 1999, the Law 2742/99 described the procedure more precisely and the first participatory management unit for a marine park (Zakynthos) was formed. However, this scheme was left without funding and its decision capacity was minimal, due to the lack of an implementation mechanism and the intense local small-scale political issues that have arisen within the management units.
The participatory system has been proven to be rather ineffective, because of the lack of a strategic national planning, institutional support and funding. In the meantime, the former central system remains valid, but is not really applied on the ground, due to the transition period. The future is uncertain. What is needed is a stronger political commitment from the side of the decision makers to devote the necessary funds (an equivalent amount of money for a sufficient operation of the protected areas system in Greece would be the amount needed for the construction of about 10 kms highway) and the political will to act against small local interests and short term policies.
The main obstacles for a successful operation of the Greek protected areas are:
• Lack of interest from the side of the public
• Lack of political will
• Institutional problems and administration gaps
• Reactions against protection in a local level
Following the EU Habitats Directive, Greece has proposed 263 areas for protection, including the already existing ones. No progress has been performed ever since, for the reasons mentioned above. Greece has currently 10 National Parks, 11 Ramsar Wetlands, 19 Aesthetic Forests, 52 Monuments of Nature, 2 Marine parks and several game reserves. Almost all terrestrial protected areas are located on high mountains.