Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Memorandum of Understanding

Draft 2.6.2011

in consideration of the experiences made and issues discussed during the workshop 'Imperishable water and the question of developlment',

in recognition of the fact that concerns for the environment can readily be linked to water / wetlands related issues people have to face on the island of Rhodes,

in reference to the EU Directive on Wetlands (EU 2000/60/EC)


in view of the newly proposed legislation by the Greek Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change for the protection of wetlands, with which we agree that no construction in wetlands should occur or water be drained, while farming in wetlands can continue, provided they do not use harmful fertilizers,

we, the signatories, declare that wetlands are of utmost importance to retain the ecological balance on the island of Rodes.

Insofar one concern can be expressed once wetlands disappear, attention needs to be drawn as to what happens between the sea and inland, or where fresh water meets salty water. For when rivers dry out or are suddenly cut off before reaching the sea, then not enough fresh water flows out into the sea. Instead it enhances that salty water encroaches upon the land, thereby affecting the quality of water negatively by becoming more salty,

but while recognizing this as problem, there is a need for a new understanding as to what it takes to go beyond mere protection of water and wetlands in order to uphold the biodiversity in nature altogether,

as this has implications for methods of protection of the wetlands.

Their protection is most crucial as they entail elements, materials, substances and above all water needed to uphold life within natural borders,

and, therefore, are not to be perceived either as residues or as waste lands to be built on or to be neglected or ignored,

for as the most recent floods on Rhodes during the heavy rain fall in March 2011 have revealed, houses and roads build in or near river beds were heavily damaged, since water will seek its natural way,

so that it raises the question of development, how is it ever possible to construct on these wetlands and/or dried out river beds, when in fact they are needed to retain an ecological balance between the wet and dry season.

Current development as depicted by new hotels and other residential complexes going up near river beds till they are chocked off from the sea, while construction companies and others ravage river beds by extracting gravel and sand for making cement, so that the natural encounter of fresh with salt water is reversed,  all mean a loss of quality in the drinking water while the entire cultural landscape is destroyed, so that the inland forces are no longer strong enough to offset the force of the sea encroaching upon the land of the island.

This development can be noticed onhand of what is happening to the unique fish of Rhodos, namely the Ghizani which has lost more and more a natural habitat to survive in.

Since everyone is concerned about water, and given the wide spread encroachment by mankind upon the physical environment, we are especially irritated by the major premise implicit in the figure used to justify the construction of the damlake of Gadouras, since there is being predicted a population growth of up to 300 000 by 2039 and which as prognosis can be used to justify all kinds of investments, including the construction of ever more hotels with swimming pools.

Thus it seems odd to us that the impact assessment of such a quantitative increase is not countered by a quality measure of water, but also not by other environmental measures to ensure a quality determined development and population growth. If Rhodes is being treated as being in need of a success story every year by having this year more tourists than in the previous year, then this measure of success will make a quality controlled development impossible. Yet the entire island cannot be treated as if a company which seeks maximum profit by expanding every year to take in more tourists. As this has a tremendous negative impact upon quality of the air with increase in traffic so much that it becomes unmanageable, while the noise pollution increases and landscape quality deteriorates, it would mean a negative aesthetics would rationalise all other failures till it will be too late to respond to this exploitative developement. Indeed, the more mega projects are implemented, the less there exists a chance for retaining the aesthetical quality of the island. This stands in sharp contradiction to the beauty Rhodes was once known for.

To come to a different development path, we conceive a good practice to mean such kind of interaction with nature that allows experiences to be made of the beauty of the natural territories while providing guidelines as to how to conceive the ratio and the structured relationship between nature and man built environment.

It is our understanding that especially through education but also environmental protection measure, there should be promoted first of all a dialogue with nature. Children but also adults should be less afraid of nature as much more knowledgeable of the biodiversity and the conditions under which life is being sustained on this planet.

Once such a dialogue forms the basis of understanding, this should be communicated in the form of a new environmental awareness.

With it shall go a campaign to further a debate about environmental and cultural policy so as to conjoin the various measures undertaken for all sectors, including tourism, education, culture and development.

Given the information obtained about wetlands and other environmental features through such organisations as WWF, but also university faculties dealing with various aspects from marine biology to sustainability studies, along with various NGOs such as Aithria and the newly to be created one by Nikos Kasseris and his team, following recommendations can be made:

Consequently out of an interest to bring about a new flow of things, and after experiencing scientists, artists and others making together experiences as to the environmental conditions for rivers and wetlands on the island of Rhodes, to be recommended

that in future governmental policy with regards to the protection of wetlands should link environmental approaches with planning, while becoming aware as to what a cultural diffusion is needed with regards to measures decided upon, but also how to alter and to challenge bad practices. For all measures but also cultural habits e.g. the way rubbish is discarded, have simultaneously an impact on both nature and understanding thereof. Here the need to show more respect for nature is needed as nature itself has become most vulnerable.

This would mean overcoming the split and contradictions between the local and regional-national level with the European dimension still another aspect in need of being taken into consideration, while communities have to overcome the split between local population and the tourist population, insofar as their respective interests diverge so much that there is no dialogue taking place about how to treat a local place with utmost respect and consideration for sustaining water as source of life.

The cultural embrace of all the land in need of protection will have implications upon land use and what needs to be understood as a need to overcome the fake dichotomy of not only protected and unprotected but also private and public land. Everyone uses water everywhere. Some cultural wisdom has to be introduced so that common practice makes not only sense, but safeguards and enhances the sustainability of all resources mankind relies upon for survival.

The chances of advocating principles to retain wetlands, and with them untouched or natural land, is slim, but here a special effort needs to be undertaken.

In short, there is no more land and resources to be wasted by ill conceived developments.

Environmental impact assessments have to be linked to cultural impact evaluations and cultural dissemination practices as no law by itself will suffice if not upheld by people in their daily and common practice.

Departing from children education has to include learning from the environment in order to know what respect of nature does mean for the future of these generations growing up in a world which has done some irreversible damages not only to wetlands, but to all physical spaces.

Crucial is to halt the ongoing conversion of precious agricultural land and even forest areas into construction as self sustainability means also the promotion of such local economies which are not mono functional i.e. dependent solely upon tourism as source of income.

Efforts need to be made, in order to understand the complexity of the issues involved. Such an action can create the necessary memory base to sustain over time a continuity of life through good practice. This has to include gaining in competence in order to be able to adapt to changing conditions. It means society altogether has to enter a new learning process and alter its relationship to nature. Linked to planning, use of the land has to be done in a way that solutions forthcoming are culturally refined, so that cities in relation to rural land, coastal areas, inland areas etc. become expressions of cultural landscapes. All these relationships, including infrastructures and institutional set-ups, have to reflect the desire of all people to find solutions on the basis of lived through experiences. Everything should be done so that people can come forth with solutions compatible with both nature and culture. As this is a matter of mutual trust, this social capital has to be increased. For everyone has to be convinced that human, social, economic and cultural forces can interrelate to ensure sustainable development.

^ Top

« "Down by the river" - Hatto Fischer | The open question of development »