The “Save Ios” association, together with the “Association of Iites” addressed the following letter to the members of the Interministerial Committee on Strategic Investments, as well as other government officials and public services, in order to inform them about the catastrophic development model that is promoted to Ios.

The letter contains several annexes, which are available in the Greek version of the website.

Summary

To: ……

From: The Associations

Save Ios, based in Athens, 3is Septemvriou Street, Number 144

Association of Iites, based in Athens, Dorieon Street, Number 5, Ano Petralona

Esteemed Mr.….,

This letter concerns the approval by the Interministerial Committee of Investments of three investment projects on the island of Ios. We acknowledge the nation’s need for financing after the period of prolonged crises and disinvestment. Unfortunately, the investments under consideration are disadvantageous. They are disproportionate to the infrastructure and carrying capacity of Ios. Also, should the until now realized projects of the investors raise concern as they are rife with environmental destruction, absence of legal liability, and misconduct.  Such investments do not advance the country’s tourism or cultural product, nor do they contribute to the prosperity of the local community. We believe these projects should not be approved, let alone be included in the list of strategic investments to be considered. This letter along with its appendices explains our position.

1. Disproportion with infrastructure and carrying capacity

For many years two five-star hotels have been operational in Ios. In the last five years two more were licensed and have been built. At the present stage, nine (9) other investment projects are in progress, six of which pertain to five-star hotels and three to tourist resort complexes. These projects in progress include the three approved by the Interministerial Committee. Most of the nine projects shall receive considerable state aid (Annex A).

Large-scale tourism development in Ios, as contained in licenses and state aid, is disproportionate to the island’s existing structure. Ios has four main settlements: Chora, Ormos, Epano Kampos and Mylopotas (Annex B). The plans approved by the Interministerial Committee include the creation of three tourist resort complexes. This essentially doubles the island's residential density – in an island already significantly developed for tourism.

There is also a total disproportion to the basic infrastructure of the island, such as the road network (Annex B) and the water supply (Annex C). The road network and the water supply cover the needs of the island, particularly during the tourist season, when the number of its population rises to more than ten times the number of permanent residents. Some of the new hotel units are not even connected to a legally existing road network.

The issue of carrying capacity becomes even more significant when we consider that Ios has been characterized in its entirety as landscape of particular natural beauty (Government Gazette 763 / Β / 1977, Annex D), receiving in theory protection similar to islands such as Hydra. Ios is rich in archeological sites (Appendix E) and other environmentally protected areas, such as wildlife refuges and wetlands (Appendix G). Creating many new and infrastructurally demanding hotel units will inevitably alter the Aegean physiognomy of the island as well as its natural environment.

2. Environmental destruction and accountability

The two recently constructed five-star hotels, as well as eight of the nine proposed investment projects are run by public limited companies backed by the same investors. The activities of these companies have been accompanied by extensive environmental destruction, absence of legal liability, and misconduct. This is not surprising as Ios is essentially being abandoned to monopoly exploitation, and it is well known from economic theory that monopolies do not lead to healthy situations.

The activities of the companies so far have been focused on two areas: Raches Papa and Koumbara-Diakofto. In both areas the damage is extensive (Annex H).

In the area of ​​Raches Papa, where one of the two new five-star hotels has been built, there have been extensive illegal interference in a protected wetland resulting in its complete destruction. Connecting the Raches Papa hotel with the legal road network and with other beaches on the island has been achieved by means incompatible with any kind of rule of law (Annex B). 

In the area of ​​Koumbara-Diakofto, where a tourist resort complex was authorized, a bridge connecting a rocky islet near the island with a beach of the island was illegally constructed, and extensive planting of trees non-native to the Cyclades and Greece (US and Mexican palm trees) were installed. You can form an opinion about the environmental catastrophes from the photos that are on the website http://save-ios.gr/el/.

Investigations of the interventions in the mentioned areas have been carried out by the administration and violations confirmed. Respective fines were imposed (Annex H), but they were disproportionately small in relation to the budget of the projects. The landscape has not been restored.

3. Impact on the local community

Most of the permanent residents of Ios earn their living from tourism, many from small hotel units and rooms for rent. The creation of the approved hotel units would significantly reduce the residents’ revenues and bring many to financial hardship. Access to some of the best beaches on the island would be available only to customers of the new units. The beach in ​​Raches Papa is already virtually inaccessible to the public. [...]

4. A comprehensive design for Ios

We believe that before any major tourist projects are approved in Ios the following should be done:

- Completion and approval of the Spatial Planning Study of Ios. The study titled "Model Spatial Planning of Ios Island" prepared by the National Technical University of Athens and with Professor Emeritus Joseph Stefanou as scientific supervisor was completed in 2011. Aim of the study was to research the physiognomy of the island, as well as its sustainable development based on economic, social, and environmental components. To date this study has not been utilized. What is written and proposed in this study, which was prepared with the initiative and money of government agencies, stands in stark contrast to the development promoted in recent years on the island.

- Preparation of a Strategic Study of Environmental Impact and Bearing Capacity for the entire island. Investment projects on the island should be evaluated as a whole, and not individually.

- Re-evaluation, at political level, of the development model that seems to have been chosen for Ios. Is it appropriate to plan tourism development that (a) will double the residential density on the island in a few years, and (b) will be carried out by monopolistic business interests with a proven history of environmental destruction, absence of legal liability, and disrespect for the Cycladic physiognomy?

- Assessment of the declaration by all competent authorities that Ios a landscape of particular natural beauty.

- Assessment of the annulation trial which is pending in the Hellenic Council of State for one of the three tourist complexes (in the area of ​​Koumbara-Diakofto).

5. Save Ios Association and Association of Iites

The Association "Save Ios" was approved by order No. 74/2020 of the Athens Magistrate Court. Its main purpose, per its statutes is the protection of the natural environment of Ios, its traditional settlements and monuments, and its Aegean architectural physiognomy, taking into account Greek and European legislation and international conventions for the protection of the environment and cultural heritage.

The group "Association of Iites" was approved by declaratory judgement 692/1924 and bears association number 1286. Its main purpose per its statutes is the communication between and mutual support of its members, the preservation of public morality, customs and traditions of Ios, the contribution to the treatment and solution of local problems, and attention to the protection of the natural environment and cultural heritage.

Based on their stated missions (Appendix I), our associations address this letter to you, and are happy to provide any additional information or clarifications.

Respectfully,

President of the Association “Save Ios”

President of the “Association of Iites”