Famous across the globe for its stunning beauty, the volcanic island of Santorini is now facing the dire consequences of too much tourism, which appears to be taking a toll on the very natural landscape it is known for.
Speaking at a press conference in Athens on Tuesday, Santorini Mayor Nikos Zorzos warned that the island’s natural features are being destroyed and called on the government to immediately take measures in order to preserve farm land, enforce an integrated coastal management scheme and set up destination management organization.
More than 1.3 million tourists visit the 73 km2 Cycladic isle every year. The island’s infrastructure – airport, port, road network, water supply and sewage system, energy grid – are unable to meet the demands of the over 85,000 visitors roaming its narrow pathways per day. At the same time, local businesses are unable to offer quality services to the hordes of travelers.
The island’s mayor stresses that besides the extremely large number of beds and accommodation facilities, Santorini is also facing uncontrolled construction, referring among others to Vlychada, one of the most popular beaches there due to its breath-taking volcanic rock formations.
“What’s happening in Vlychada is a crime. Geological formations that are thousands of years old are being destroyed and not just by illegal but also legal construction,” he said. “If we want to salvage something of Santorini, we need to stop building on it.”
The municipality has moved ahead in recent years with extensive infrastructure works in the areas of water and waste management.
“Today, 11 percent of Santorini has been built, something that only compares with Attica. It has to stop at some point. The state has a responsibility to protect Santorini before it is completely destroyed by tourism,” Zorzos said, expressing his dissatisfaction over a company that has been excavating on the edge of the cliff in Vlychada in order to build a hotel.
The mayor, as well as eight local associations, claim the project is illegal.