Greece, National Strategy for Wetland Resources -- Summary Presentation

[This is a reprint of the English version of the Greek National Strategy for Wetland Resources (October 1999), as provided to the Ramsar Bureau for this purpose by the Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning, and Public Works. The section numbering in this executive summary corresponds to the numbering of the full text which follows. Go to the bottom of this file for a link to the main text of the Strategy. -- Ramsar Web Editor.]




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October 1999


This strategy answers to an obvious necessity, and to the specific commitment made by all contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention. The expected benefits of a national strategy for wetlands are:

  • Development of a single notional framework for the sustainable management actions of wetland resources, no matter where they originate from
  • Contribution to the integration of the dimension of sustainable management of wetland resources in sector policies
  • Inform other ministries and bodies involved in management, Local Government, private investors and citizens, about national priorities with regard to wetland resources
  • Facilitate (in co-operation with other countries) joint confrontation of wetland problems at a European level or, in general, at the level of smaller or larger geographical regions


The National Strategy for Wetland Resources is based on:

  • Scientific findings as regards the values and problems of wetlands
  • The existing legal framework and the resulting commitments of the country at the national, European and international level
  • The existing strategic framework, as determined by national, Community and international documentation
  • A set of basic principles that concern ecological ethics, national requirements and scientific approaches

1.1 Scientific findings

1.1.1 Definition and types of wetlands

The term wetland includes any area that is covered, seasonally or permanently, by shallow waters or that is never covered by water but has a humid substrate (soil, sand, etc.) during a long period of the year. Wetlands are freshwater, saline or brackish shallow lakes as well as rivers, swamps, lagoons, springs, peatlands.

Wetlands should always be understood as integral parts of the greater hydrological basin, because whatever occurs in that, influences wetlands.

At the 4th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention in 1990, a classification system for types of wetlands was adopted. According to this, the 35 types of wetlands are grouped into three categories:

  • Marine and coastal wetlands
  • Inland wetlands
  • Artificial wetlands

1.1.2 Wetland functions and values

According to their structure and the surrounding environment, wetlands fulfil various natural functions.

The main wetland functions are:

Replenishment of underground aquifers

Modification of flood phenomena

Entrapment of sediments and other substances

Storage and release of heat

Absorption of carbon dioxide

Binding of solar radiation and support of food webs

From the above wetland functions, values result for Man that consist of a multitude of goods and services.

These values may be:

biological (biodiversity)


water supply







flood control


erosion control


improvement of water quality

salt extraction

improvement of climate

sand extraction


Just as functions are interdependent, so are values, and the many ways in which they are used by Man often lead to disputes among user groups. Every wetland is a unique case, not only from the point of view of structure but also from the point of view of number and magnitude of functions.

1.1.3 Greek wetlands today

According to the most recent inventory of Greek wetlands, carried out in 1992-93 by EKBY with the support of central and prefecture services of the Ministries for the Environment and Agriculture, in co-operation with specialised scientists and environmental organisations throughout Greece, there are about 400 wetlands in our country. They are either individual wetlands or parts of wider complexes, and cover a total area of 2 million stremmata (200,000 hectares). Of these, 10 have been characterised as of international importance and have been included in the relevant Ramsar Convention list. The wetlands of international importance, together with practically all other ecologically important wetlands, have been proposed for inclusion in NATURA 2000, the European Ecological Network, through the implementation of Directive 92/43/EC.

1.1.4 The problems of Greek wetlands

During the 20th century, starting from the 1920s, and especially the mid 1960s, approximately 2/3 of the wetland area of Greece was drained, following important human intervention. The objectives were the reconstruction of the country, the support of primary production and the confrontation of epidemics. Subsequently, some of these interventions were proved to be mistaken.

Currently, Greek wetlands are threatened by the alteration of their functions and consequently the degradation of their values. The factors of degradation may be distinguished into those that result in:

  • Alteration of the hydrological regime (specific causes are river diversion, construction of dams or other structures for retaining and storing water, irrigation networks). This occurs to a high degree in rivers and springs.
  • Depletion of wetland resources (specific causes are drainage, sand extraction, clearing of natural vegetation, over-pumping, illegal hunting, illegal felling, overfishing). This is observed mainly at deltas, natural lakes and reservoirs.
  • Alteration of water quality (due to agricultural, industrial and domestic pollution). Afflicts nearly half the wetlands irrespective of type.
  • Loss of wetland area (specific causes are the extension of farmed land, roads, tourism and recreation, urban development). Lakes and deltas are threatened by pressure for the expansion of agriculture, and coastal wetlands by pressure for urban and tourism development.

1.2 The legal framework

The legal framework considered in drafting the national strategy for wetlands is constituted by the Greek legislation, community acts and international conventions that have been ratified by the Greek State. Basically, given their broad orientations and objectives and the large number of actions that they foresee, some of these pieces of legislation create strategic frameworks.

1.3 The existing strategic framework

The most important strategic frameworks compatible with the National Strategy are:

1.3.1 National policies

  • Greek Environmental Policy
  • National Wetland Policy
  • National Water Policy, as harmonised with the proposed Community Water Framework

1.3.2 Supranational and international strategic documents

  • The international Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetlands and the Strategic Plan 1997-2002
  • The MedWet initiative
  • The Strategy for Mediterranean Wetlands
  • The European Community 5th Action Plan for the environment and sustainable development
  • The Communication of the Commission of the European Communities to the Council and the European Parliament entitled "Wise use and conservation of wetlands"
  • The Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy
  • The Mediterranean Conservation Strategy of the Worldwide Fund for Nature

1.3.3 Legislative acts that form strategic frameworks

  • L. 2204/1994, ratification of the international convention on biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43/EC on the protection of natural ecosystems and wild fauna and endemic flora
  • Directive 79/409/EC on the conservation of wild birds
  • Regulation 2078/92 of the Council of the European Communities concerning agricultural production methods that are compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment and the conservation of the natural territory

1.4 Summary presentation of the general principles of the national strategy for wetland resources:

  • Wetlands are common goods and their management is determined by this quality
  • The State is obliged, vis-à-vis the citizens of the country, the European and the international community, to pursue the conservation of wetlands
  • No other wetland area should be lost in the future, and where possible, wetland functions should be rehabilitated and restored, and new ones should be created
  • The remaining wetlands should be managed in a sustainable way. In the long run, this can only be achieved through the integration of the dimension of natural resources protection in specific policies for the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
  • Lack of knowledge and know-how as regards wetlands and their management should be identified, and this knowledge should reach the appropriate recipients
  • Wetland management should consider the interests and the views of local communities. Local communities should be encouraged to practice sustainable uses by providing technical advice and if possible economic incentives
  • Successful sustainable management of wetlands requires a certain co-ordination mechanism, at a local, regional and central level
  • Wetlands are integral parts of their wider hydrological basins, because their functions and values are influenced by any activities in the hydrological basin
  • The conservation of biodiversity is most effectively handled at the ecosystem level
  • Increased awareness of the public and specific social groups regarding the values, the threats and the need to protect wetlands, plays a basic role in their conservation
  • The role of environmental NGOs in the protection of wetlands has been proven to be important and may be rendered even more effective
  • Legal supervision procedures that are associated to the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure and precede development projects affecting wetlands, should be carried out with particular strictness and if necessary, mitigation measures should be imposed or an alternative area should be selected for these projects
  • The cost of prevention, monitoring and impact mitigation, as well as the responsibility and the cost of repairing ecological damage should be borne by those who are liable


2.1 General objective of the national strategy for wetland resources

The conservation and rehabilitation of all functions and values of the wetland resources of Greece, as a contribution to the sustainable development of the country.

2.2 Specific objectives

The above general objective is analysed as follows:

  1. Designation of protected areas in the most important wetlands of the country and their management
  2. Prevention of wetland degradation from projects and activities
  3. Implementation of sustainable management practices in all wetlands of the country – rehabilitation and restoration of wetlands
  4. Sustainable management of water resources in the hydrological basins of wetlands and small islands
  5. Promotion of scientific research on the management of wetlands and dissemination of its application
  6. Study and application of economic incentives for the conservation of wetlands
  7. Monitoring of important parameters for the management of wetlands - inventory
  8. Information, environmental education and awareness about wetlands
  9. International co-operation wetland resources management affairs


Specific objective 1. Required actions
Dessignation and management of protected areas Evaluation of areas - priorities. Enactment of protected areas. Implementation of enacted measures. Preparation of management plans. Implementation of management and monitoring actions. Creation of management co-ordination structures. Training of human resources of the Information Centres and other services and bodies involved in management and monitoring. Co-ordination of management matters at national level.


Specific objective 2. Required actions


Prevention of wetland degradation

Monitoring of threats. Training of competent human resources on relevant methods. Creation and maintenance by the competent services of up-to-date archives concerning the wetlands in their area. Provision of information to those interested. Emphasis on the strict application of the institution of the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure on wetlands: training of competent services in impact assessment, evaluation of EIA statelments, etc., monitoring of the fulfilment of environmental terms. Safeguard of the ecological integrity of wetlands that are included in development plans.


Specific objective 3. Required actions


Application of sustainable management practices in all wetlands – rehabilitation and restoration

Establishment of co-ordination structures for the management of wetlands. Training of those involved at all administration and management levels. Support Local Government and administrative regions, to assist them in responding to their management responsibilities. Planning for the development of water resources. Zoning of activities. Improvement of legal framework. Creation, rehabilitation and restoration of wetland functions if considered appropriate and possible, following necessary studies and using modern know-how. Utilisation of relevant cases for monitoring, research, information, promotion. Co-ordination of management affairs at a national level.


Specific objective 4. Required actions

Integrated management of water resources in hydrological basins and small islands

Planning for the management of water resources at the hydrological basin level and the water district, considering zoning and protection measures for wetlands. Ensuring minimum water quantity required for the ecological integrity of wetlands. Creation of flexible bodies for the integrated management of water resources at the water district level. Co-operation of these bodies with the co-ordination structures for the management of wetlands. Training of users. On small islands: Recording of water availability and planning of usage. Water saving through special projects and the protection of its quality via drilling control.


Specific objective 5. Required actions

Promotion of scientific research on the management of wetlands and dissemination of results

Studies on wetland matters that have not been covered sufficiently, e.g. wetland hydrology, soils, vegetation, wetland-friendly techniques for primary production, tertiary sector, specific ecological requirements of species, types of habitat and ecosystems, biodiversity, impact from development projects. Wetland simulation. Monetary valuation of wetland goods and services. Personnel training for competent services, Information Centres and management co-ordination structures on matters of sustainable management, monitoring, impact assessment etc. Selection, reproduction and delivery of relevant material to competent services and bodies. Connection to the World Wide Web of those involved in management.


Specific objective 6. Required actions

Economic incentives for the conservation of wetlands

Investigation and exloitation of all opportunities provided by agro-environmental Regulation 2078/EC for the implementation of wetland-friendly crop and animal farming methods. Market research on sustainable production and ecotourism. Study of ways to finance traditional methods of primary production and economic activities. Promotion of alternative tourism development. Information – awareness – training of those interested.


Specific objective 7. Required actions

Monitoring of management parameters - Inventory

Set up a monitoring basis (baseline data, determination of indicator response, selection of indicators, etc.). Implementation of monitoring programmes as emerging from management plans. Specific monitoring of avifauna or other indicator species.

Monitoring of fulfilment of environmental terms. Exploitation of Geographic Information Systems. Scientific and technical support – training of competent services and bodies. Creation and maintenance of up-to-date archives by the services responsible for the wetlands of their area. Second approach to the wetlands' inventory.


Specific objective 8. Required actions

Information, environmental education and awareness about wetlands (IEEA)

Recording – evaluation of past IEEA activities and material, study of IEEA needs and planning of new relevant programmes. Organisation of awareness campaigns for the public, social groups and politicians. Implementation of IEEA programmes in primary and secondary education. Training of persons responsible at a central level. Training of trainers. Reinforcement of the role of Environmental Education Centres and environmental NGOs on IEEA. Organisation of conferences, events etc. of an information –awareness nature, for specific wetland sites. Development of co-operation among various organisations and bodies in IEEA programmes. Implementation of international IEEA programmes.


Specific objective 9. Required actions


International co-operation for sustainable management of wetlands

Establishment of a national Ramsar committee (independent or within the framework of a committee of wider responsibility) and determination of its tasks. Co-operation with other contracting parties to the Convention. Consultations with bordering countries for sustainable management of water resources and transfrontier wetlands. Co-operation of Greek specialised institutions with similar institutions of other countries and important international NGOs in view of solving management problems. Development of special co-operation between Greek institutions and institutions of other Mediterranean countries for common confrontation of management in this area. Participation of Greece in international and Community projects for the exchange of experience and coordinated protection actions.


During the current decade, the State has taken and is continuing to take positive steps in order to ensure the sustainable management of wetlands.

4.1 Planning and adoption of national policies concerning wetlands

Policies mentioned in 1.3.1. above, which have been shaped to a certain degree and are being revised continuously in accordance with the environmental requirements of the European and the international community, have started to function already as a framework for the implementation of projects and actions for sustainable management and protection of wetlands.

4.2 Projects and actions to promote the protection of Greek wetlands

4.2.1 Determination of boundaries, submission of maps and temporary legal safeguard of wetlands of international importance

Currently, the boundaries of all 10 Greek wetlands of national importance included in the Ramsar Convention have been delimited precisely, and the corresponding maps have been submitted to the Convention Secretariat. Moreover, 9 of these have a temporary legal status through the issuance of Joint Ministerial Decisions (JMD). Permanent legal status and protection will be ensured by the issuance of Presidential Decrees (PD). Draft PDs have been proposed in the Specific Management Studies (SMS) that have been produced for the areas in question.

4.2.2 Wise use

  • Management plans - SMS

JMDs for Ramsar wetlands determine protection zones, permitted or prohibited activities, and broad management orientations. The directions of the management plans and all types of proposed interventions are set out in the corresponding SMS, whose structure is similar to that of the management plans. Special operating and management regulations will be integrated in the proposed PDs. Moreover, the SMS of other important wetland areas is at various stages. On the whole, they form part of the NATURA 2000 Network. The large project "Identification and description of types of habitats in areas of interest for the protection of nature", after considerable preliminary work has started to be implemented at the beginning of 1999 (concerns 264 areas on the Scientific List of the NATURA 2000 Network). This project is expected to provide a basis that will contribute to the sustainable management of Greek wetlands in the near future as it will reduce the gaps in knowledge and will provide the basic management background.

  • Management bodies

As soon as the Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works has finalised the exact structure and functioning of the management bodies for protected areas, based on the existing legal framework, corresponding bodies will be set up for ecologically important regions of Greece, including wetlands. In wetlands of international importance, Preliminary Management Schemes (PMS) have been set up already, in the form of Joint Committees. These were established through Programme Agreements (PA) signed jointly by the Ministers for the Environment and Agriculture, the Administrative Regions and local services. PMSs deal with everyday management problems of the areas and supervise infrastructure, monitoring and management projects. Moreover, they act as informal co-ordinators for various activities that are managed by the corresponding services, thus preparing the ground for the establishment of future management bodies.

  • Information, monitoring and safeguarding infrastructure in important wetlands

Since 1992, Information Centres have been built and equipped in all areas, including watchtowers and guardhouses in all wetlands of international importance. The corresponding PAs for each area foresee the completion of infrastructure and mainly equipment in order to ensure full operability as a focal point for information, interpretation and ecotourism activities etc. Information Centres and other environmental interpretation works are under construction or are in the process of completion in other important wetland areas.

  • Environmental actions through Programme Agreements

These agreements include a series of projects and activities for each one of the wetlands of international importance, and were to be completed during the 1996-1999 period. Currently, various projects are at an advanced stage. For each area, the objects of the PA are:

a. Promotion of procedures to set up the Protection and Promotion Association by the competent Local Authorities. This body, established during the initial stage of operation of the PA, is obliged to facilitate all contracting parties to fulfil their responsibilities, to take all necessary steps in order to procure additional equipment for the operation of infrastructure, to take over the existing infrastructure and to determine its use.

b. Organisation of a meeting in order to support the Association and publication of the necessary background material.

c. The operation of the Information Centre as a reference and information place for the functions – values of the area, as a mechanism for the promotion of information and awareness and as a mechanism for the implementation of guided-tour programmes, ecotourism and other special actions. To fulfil this function, a series of actions, studies and projects are under implementation.

d. Planning and implementation of a programme for guarding the area.

Apart from the wetlands of international importance, PAs with a similar structure and operation have been signed for other important wetlands. The objective is to facilitate the implementation and monitoring of corresponding SMS and other infrastructure and management projects, and information-awareness activities that are being carried out or are being planned in these areas.

4.3 Removal of three wetlands of international importance from the Montreux Record of the Ramsar Convention

The Montreux Record includes wetlands of international importance whose ecological character, according to the countries to which they belong, is in imminent danger of alteration and which require immediate conservation action. At the 4th Meeting of the Contracting Parties in 1990, the Greek Government, conscious of its responsibility, listed all 11 wetlands of international importance (there are 10 now after the unification of two wetlands) in the Record in question and received the relevant recommendations of that Meeting and the 2 subsequent ones (in 1993 and in 1996 respectively). These recommendations referred mainly to matters concerning the precise definition of boundaries and the submission of maps, legal protection, drafting of management plans and conservation of the ecological character of the wetlands. In 1998, the Ministry for the Environment Physical Planning and Public Works, jointly with the Ramsar Secretariat, appointed an independent group of experts to examine the possibility of removing certain Greek Ramsar wetlands from the Montreux Record. The committee recorded the necessary data and proposed the removal of the Evros Delta, Lake Mikri Prespa and Artificial Lake Kerkini, and justified this proposal. The Ministry for the Environment Physical Planning and Public Works adopted the opinion of the expert group and submitted an application to the Ramsar Secretariat. The removal of these three wetlands from the Montreux Record was announced officially during the 7th Meeting of the Contracting Parties that took place in Costa Rica (May 1999).


5.1 Bodies that will implement the actions of the strategy

The Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works is responsible for promoting the strategy at a political level, as the State’s main environmental protection instrument. For the implementation of the actions themselves, co-operation and work is necessary, at all levels (central, regional and local) among many services. The main ones are those of the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry for Agriculture and the Ministry for Development, and other Ministries depending on the subject, e.g. the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, for trans-frontier waters or the Ministry of Merchant Marine, for coastal wetlands. The following will play an important role also in the implementation of certain actions:

  • Regional Administration, the Prefectures and Local Government
  • Scientific institutions, environmental NGOs, wetland Information Centres, Environmental Education Centres
  • The private sector

5.2 Dissemination and promotion of the strategy

The Ministry for the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works is at the origin of the initiative for the diffusion and promotion of the strategy for wetland resources. This Ministry will set up a committee that will plan, promote and supervise the implementation of the relevant actions. This committee may constitute part of the wider NATURA 2000 Committee, which is to be set up in the very near future, in accordance with the JMD 33318/3028 of 28.12.98 "on the determination of measures and procedures for the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora". This committee will co-operate with the bodies that co-ordinate wetland management and receive appropriate scientific support. The quest for sources of finance will be among its most vital preoccupations. A prerequisite for the smooth implementation of this strategy is its widest possible dessemination. The strategy should reach all services and bodies that are responsible for decision-making, those who are in a position to implement various actions and finally the public at large, which should understand the necessity of the actions and support them.

The dissemination and the integration of the strategy in sectorial policies through physical planning, that is, in decision-making and programming in land-use planning (with priority to land use that concerns the primary sector), water resources management, the management of forests and coastal zones, tourism development, and all other environmental and natural resources management measures, at a national, regional and local level, is of primary importance.

5.3 Evaluation of the progress of implementation of the strategy

Once the implementation of the strategy has begun in a systematic way and the competent committee has been set up, a mechanism will be determined in order to monitor the progress of implementation and the way in which relevant conclusions will be fed back into the planning of actions. This evaluation is of crucial importance for increasing the effectiveness and productivity of the actions.

Undoubtedly, it should become common consciousness that this strategy, just like any other environmental protection strategy, may prove fruitful, only provided the majority of Greek citizens endorses it as a real collective necessity, and a personal responsibility as well.

National Strategy for Wetland Resources -- Table of Contents

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