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Complex tourism investment in Moni Toplou (Kavo Sidero), Greece


The island of Crete is one of the main tourist destinations in Greece, as it receives the 1/5 of the tourists visiting Greece and the population of the island increases by five times each year. The touristic industry is based on the “sun and sea” product and the majority of the activities is concentrated on the north coast. The proposed touristic investment is planned to be implemented in the north east part of the island, close to Siteia. The wider area presents low touristic development and a small percentage of the population works at the sector. This happens mainly due to the isolation of the area from the island transportation networks and centres. Thus, the wider area presents important environmental and archaeological sites and natural landscapes. The majority of the population declares agriculture as primary occupation.

The area where the planned investment would be implemented belongs to the charitable religious institution “Panagia Akrotiriani” that was founded by the Metropolis of Ierapytna and Sitia and the Monastery of Toplou in 1991. Although, parts of the area were disputed between the State and the Monastery and the Court allocated 100 hect to the State. The institution’s goal is the financing of its charitable activities by the development of the area. An international tender was launched and an English company was selected. The final Convention was signed in 1998 and foreseen the land rent for 80 years. The project included six touristic villages, 3 golf courses, conference center, etc. In February 2007 the Company gets the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

In the meantime (1991-2007), the area was registered to NATURA 2000 Network, mainly due to the Vai Palm Forest. The Spatial Plan for the island of Crete was approved and the Special Spatial Plan for Tourism was prepared.

In April 2007, Cretan environmental organizations and local society groups (294 stakeholders and individuals) filed an action before the Council of State asking for the annulment of the EIA, following by two supplementary files within the next few months.

Several discussions, events and a conference were organized by local environmental groups and the planned project was discussed thoroughly several times in the City Council of Itanos and the Prefectural Council of Lasithi. In parallel, hundreds of articles and reports were published, revealing the environmental problems that the project will provoke (creation of golf courses in semi-arid areas, distortion of the special character of the area, building close or even within NATURA 2000 Network area, etc). In addition to this, a great argumentation was developed questioning the supposed positive social and economic aspects of the investment, as it is presented by the company and the institution, as well as the selection of the concrete Company. Left political parties tabled parliamentary questions concerning the legality of the processes. [1, 2, 3]. The struggle took a national dimension, connected with other movements against land grabbing.

In 2010, the Council of State rejected the EIA and at that time it seemed that the project was totally cancelled. [4]. However, in 2012, the planned investment was modified and renamed “ITANOS GAIA”. It was included in the law of strategic investments (fast track) and the Company got the permission to prepare the Special Plan of Spatial Development for Strategic Investments. The inclusion of the investment in the fast track law means that the environmental legislation could be overridden and the company could ask for funding by development funds. According to the legal framework, its goal is "to achieve specific economic or development purpose, able to generally assist the country's economy, but also to contribute to the immediate response of the present financial crisis". In November 2014 , the Council of State approved the Special Plan of Spatial Development for Strategic Investment “Itanos Gaia”.

[5, 6]

Basic Data

NameComplex tourism investment in Moni Toplou (Kavo Sidero), Greece
ProvinceLasithi – Island of Crete
SiteMunicipality of Itanos
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Tourism Recreation
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Establishment of reserves/national parks
Land acquisition conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsPrior Phase:

According to the rejected EIA, the complex tourist investment comprised:

- 7000 beds (2.220 hotel beds, 2.490 beds in apartments, 2.290 beds in second residence)

- 3 Golf Courses (2 courses of 18 holes and 1 of 9 holes)

- Conference center of 1.190 seats

- Administrative center

- Sports center

- Cultural and environmental center

- 2 wastewater treatment plants

- 1 desalination plant (to supply water to

- golf courses)

- Relevant technical networks

According to other documents, the following services, that are not included in the EIA, were foreseen:

- Horse riding facilities

- Shooting facilities

- Spa

- Marina

Current Phase : “ITANOS GAIA” (fast track)

- 5 hotels (1,936 hotel beds)

- 1 Golf course (18 holes)

- Ancillary infrastructure

- 1 SPA center
Project Area (in hectares)Prior phase: 2,500/ Current phase 2.5
Level of Investment (in USD)Prior phase: 1,346,000,000 Current phase: 300,466,359
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population2,164 (Municipality of Itanos) 72,198 (Lasithi Perfecture) 682,928 (Island of Crete)
Start Date20/04/2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesLoyalward Ltd from United Kingdom
Panayia Akrotiriani from Greece
Relevant government actorsMunicipality of Itanos, Perfecture of Lasithi,

Ministry of finance, Ministry of Enviroment, Spatial Planning and Public Works
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCoordinating Committee of Movements and Environmntal Groups of Sitia;

Environmental Association of Itanos;

Cretan Network of Ecological Organizations EcoCrete,;

Eastern Crete Autonomous Engineers ;

Environmental Group of Sitia;

Ierapetra Agricultural Cooperatives;

Elliniki Etairia, Society for the Environment and the Cultural Heritage

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesThe wider area of Lasithi presents a very dynamic and extroverted agricultural sector. It has the largest percentage of irrigated lands and of greenhouses in Crete. The main products are olive oil (registered as protected designation of origin) and greenhouses’ vegetables of high quality. At the same time tourist facilities available in the area is of small scale and the natural landscape, along with the non-built up coasts, the Vai Palm Forest and the archaeological sites, permits the further development of low scale tourist activities.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.In 2010, when the Council of State rejected the project’s EIA, there was the certainty that the project was cancelled. Although, the next years, under the pretext of the financial crisis, the parliament voted laws that initialized the promotion of investments and the privatization of common goods at the expense of the environment and the society. In addition to this, the law promote the funding of the investments by state and EU development funds. It remains to be seen, if the Company would proceed to the implementation of the investment plan. Given this, and even if the project is modified, we cannot assume that the case was a success of environmental justice.

Sources and Materials


Natura 2000


[1] Melissourgos G., 2008, Local-Regional development and geography of spatial contrasts - Study of two tourism development cases in Greece and Spain, Doctoral Dissertation


[4] Ecocrete, 2010, The approval of the EIA for Moni Toplou is illegal

[6] Siteia News, 2015, "Green light" by the State Council for investing in Moni Toplou

[2] Online petition against the investment, 2011

[3] Lewino Fr., 2008, Massacre au béton, Le Point

[5] Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks , 2012, Press Release

Other Documents

Complex Investment in Moni Toplou Map outline Source: Melissourgos G., 2008

Poster against golf courses Moni Toplou (Cavo Sidero)

Meta Information

ContributorErmioni Frezouli, Geography Department - Harokopio University Athens (HUA).
Last update21/10/2015



Complex Investment in Moni Toplou Map outline

Source: Melissourgos G., 2008

Poster against golf courses

Moni Toplou (Cavo Sidero)