The Problem

In 2018, the Interministerial Committee of Investments approved three investment projects on the island of Ios. Save Ios acknowledges 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.



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.




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.

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.



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.



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.