2006 to be the year of changes in Southern Crete?
Beginning this new year of 2006, we are facing many changes in Crete especially on the south coast, an area we are used to thinking about as virgin, unspoiled, quiet and free from noise and mass tourism.
A Chinese Port in Tymbaki?
For Tymbaki, which the Chinese Government have selected as a site in which to build a new container terminal, the changes may be huge. From among many candidate areas, Tymbaki is seen as the most promising area to develop a facility that will rival Pireaus in size. The Chinese commercial fleet will bring all kinds of Chinese merchandise for distribution across the east Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Adriatic sea and of course, throughout the European market.
With the level of such an investment expected to be great, both countries, Greece and China will share the cost, with Greece maintaining a controlling (51 per cent) share. According to the Minister of Merchant Shipping, Manolis Kefaloyiannis, it will be equal in size to Pireaus, Greece’s largest port, with one million containers passing through each year. He added that the investment will go ahead in the immediate future and that final negotiations to begin work are underway.
It must be noted that there is little solid information available on the subject. The project is not, in fact, widely believed to have been finalized. No-one has officially informed the people of the area, those people who would be most effected in their everyday lives by such massive development.
Discussions regarding the harbour have created strong debate around Tymbaki, but little is known with certainty about the benefits, or otherwise of this project. Nor are people convinced that the project will actually become a reality. Debates centre on the possibility that alternatives to agriculture will be found as a source of employment, and on what impact the development will have generally. For example, there are many concerns about a negative impact on the natural environment, and on tourism and everyday life. Many questions have been left unanswered, particularly for the communities of Agia Galini, Matala, Kokkinos Pirgos and Kalamaki, whose main income is from tourism. It is considered that this project will surely have a negative effect.
Another consideration comes from the environmental organizations of Crete. Concerned about damage to a fragile eco-system on the south coast, they point to one of the last refuges of the sea-turtle at nearby Komos, where the Caretta-Caretta turtles, lay their eggs on the beach.
Much remains unknown, but the Crete Gazette will follow the changes and try to keep readers up to date with developments as they become clearer.
A small Town south of Matala?
The interest in a second large investment in this area of southern Crete, not far from the first, comes from a Belgian company, Green Well, who have selected the area south of Matala for building a small town. Houses to be constructed here will be marketed internationally, with the vast majority expected to be sold to foreign buyers. The ‘town’ will contain a golf course and football pitches, among other attractions.
– The coast south of Matala –
Green Well has made an official offer to buy 4,000 square metres of land. A further 2 million sq. m. will be leased to them under the current scheme. For the purchase, they have offered 1.4 million euros, or 3.5 thousand euros per 1,000 sq. m.. The agreement for leasing the 2 million sq. m., they offer 200,000 euros per year, increasing by 2 per cent per year over a total of 80 years. Some members of Tymbaki’s council have asked for a faster procedure in order not to lose the opportunity that the sale would represent.
The Municipality of Tymbaki has hired a well known lawyer from Athens to negotiate a final settlement. He has experience in this part of the world, having been involved in the recent investment project near Vai, where 26 million sq. m. is being sold.
Nothing has yet been finalised, but the interest of the Belgian company remains intense. The Belgian Ambassador has recently met Mr. Tsokas, government representative for the administrative area of Crete. Mr Tsokas declared that this project would be seen in a positive light, with all assistance given to its being realised, as would be the case in any legally correct project that benefits the region.
According to information, the region under question was once given protected status under European law, as a Natura 2000 area. It has recently been de-classified as such.