Reading various articles on the development of Crete, some overoptimistic and others pessimistic, various thoughts occur to me as to what we consider development of a place.
Crete is a region of Greece, a country which was until recently extremely beautiful. However, the constant concreting-over of its beaches with buildings that are either massive or completely out of tune with traditional local architecture and the surrounding scenery, degrades both the country and property values themselves in the middle or long term.
Especially where hotels are concerned, the only profit that remains is the short-term, get-rich-quick profit of certain businessmen and seasonal employment for part of the population.
The overoptimistic views remind me of a young man who thinks himself athletic, but instead of choosing a sport that suits him in order to learn something new and balance mind, body and spirit, prefers to pick something to impress those around him. If that young man chooses bodybuilding and a special diet with muscle-building supplements, the result will be overdeveloped muscles and the “Michelin Man” image, lacking in flexibility, harmony and aesthetics. Of course everything is a matter of taste, and some people might like this image. The worst thing, though, is that when that young man stops exercising and loses muscle tone, his body will turn into a flabby mass – a sorry sight indeed.
Unfortunately, many people do not understand that “development”, whatever they mean by that, must follow the golden rule. You can’t just keep building a place up, for example, because the area will simply lose its value, no matter how pretty it is and how attractive the houses are. The area gradually loses its authenticity and special beauty, the natural landscape is eroded and people start to wonder why they should live there if they have the money to go somewhere else.
When everything has been concreted over, as is already the case with seaside Apokoronas which is turning into one long village from Kalyves to Vamos, you often wonder if you really want to visit this exceptional place. And if you do, you have to cross roads lined with villas, some flying the flag of the owner’s country along with that of Greece, like ships in a foreign port.
When a place has been completely built up, when the sea is polluted, when the climate is changing and winter becomes spring, why should someone pay to visit a place, even a beautiful and interesting one, if it’s more trouble than it’s worth?
When you want to spend some time on your own, to walk in a once-quiet countryside and be alone with your thoughts and the majesty of nature, which offers her bounty freely if only you respect her, how can you when everything is built up and fenced in?
Even those who invest in the area now that it’s still beautiful will be the first to leave once they’ve exceeded their loans and invested their superprofits on the stock market or elsewhere. I wonder, don’t the civil servants who issue the permits for such so-called “development” investments have the foresight to see what the country will look like in 20 or 30 years? If they’re not interested in the country’s future, they shouldn’t hold the positions “we the people” have effectively voted them into.
The state of dereliction is already evident in East Crete after the over-development, concreting and sloppy work of the “development” programmes of the 80’s and 90’s.
I believe that we should get together and discuss the future of Crete before it’s too late, and persuade those who seem unable to understand the future harm being caused that measures must be taken for the sustainable development of Crete, based on ecotourism and alternative tourism. The mountains and sea must be protected from pollution by waste and rubbish, there should be more parks in towns, historical monuments and buildings should be preserved, and so forth.
Only through a cultural and aesthetic “diet” will our island retain its standing, its quality and its beauty, which will define its future and determine the values and quality of life of future generations, our own children.
Article by Vangelis Markakis