The sale to the royal family of Qatar of six privately owned islets in the Messolonghi Lagoons National Park (partly of which is a Ramsar site), has sparked fears that the site’s protective legislation will be undermined, in order to facilitate luxury housing or tourism development plans.
Under the current special protection regime, the islet of Oxia, the first to be sold, can host a farmhouse of 80 sq.m., a warehouse of 50 sq.m., visitor information and light summer recreation infrastructures, as well as rural activities, such as apiculture and animal husbandry. As however is reported in international media, this regime would not satisfy the royal family’s needs.
The six islands purchased by Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani are part of the Echinades group of islets and have been designated as protected zones of the Messolonghi Lagoons National Park. The national park (covering an area of 11,600 hectares) is one of the largest and most important lagoon ecosystems in the Mediterranean. It is formed by Greece’s most extensive deltaic system, fed primarily by the rivers Acheloos and Evinos. This birdwatcher’s haven hosts over 280 species of birds, many of which are protected under the EU’s Wild Birds Directive (79/409/EEC). It also provides valuable spawning grounds for a very rich fauna of freshwater and marine fish.