Meetings make progress for the Nestos Delta Ramsar site, Greece

Meetings make progress for the Nestos Delta Ramsar site, Greece

8 August 2002

The Nestos Delta, northern Greece

The Prefect of Kavala Province in northern Greece, Theodoros Kalliontzis, invited the Ramsar Bureau to visit the ecosystem in the delta of the river Nestos of unique ecological and environmental importance and beauty, and to participate in meetings about its conservation and sustainable management. The Ramsar Site "Nestos Delta and Adjoining Lagoons" was designated on 21 August 1975 when Greece joined the Convention, comprising an extensive delta complex, including saltmarshes, freshwater lakes, coastal lagoons, dune systems and the largest remaining area of riparian forest in Greece. Decreasing groundwater levels resulting from growing irrigation demands and dam construction upstream led to the inclusion of the site on the Montreux Record on 4 July 1990.

The focal point for the Ramsar Convention in the Greek Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, Ms Dimitra Spala, Ramsar's Mediterranean Coordinator, Spyros Kouvelis, and its European Coordinator, Tobias Salathé, participated in two meetings on 1 July 2002 in Kavala: first to answer the questions of key administrators and elected people, then to explain the aims and approaches of the Ramsar Convention and to discuss the development pressures and the management needs for the Nestos delta complex with all kinds of stakeholders and the general public present in good numbers.

The coastal area of Kavala Province is under severe development pressure (e.g. marble, slate and aggregate quarries, geothermal fields, oil and gas deposits, harbour development, main transport corridor between the Ariatic and the Balkans). Kavala Province was one of the first to elaborate an Integrated Management Plan for the Coastal Zone under the European Union TERRA programme as a basis for more detailed planning work and better development decisions. Planned new harbour facilities and petrol storage tanks at the edge of the Ramsar Site are indeed posing grave concerns for the ecological character of the site. Currently, the European Commission (Directorate General Environment) is assessing whether such installations would violate any EU directives (on the conservation of natural habitats, flora and fauna, on environmental impacts, and on dangerous substances and the risk of accidents).

The construction of several dams upstream of the extremely rich and beautiful Nestos Gorge had substantial impact on the ecological character of the riverine floodplain in the delta area. The need to adapt the current zonation of the Ramsar Site was discussed with different stakeholders, including the possibility of including the agricultural buffer zone in the delta plain into the Ramsar Site. A set of spectacular small lakes and freshwater ponds in the hilly cultivated area north of Hrisopoulis town is currently profiting from an EU-LIFE project to evaluate its ecological values and prepare management proposals. These unique habitats, as well as the small Thassopoula island off the Nestos river mouth, holding important roosts of colonial waterbirds, should also be included in the Ramsar Site.

The Kavala Province Forestry Service is making impressive progress with the restoration of natural riverine forests and the establishment of nature reserves and visitor centres, providing modern education and training facilities.

It is hoped that these meetings will contribute to increasing the awareness about the natural values of this area and create a consensus to conserve and manage them in a sustainable way. Renewed efforts to remove the factors that provoked negative ecological change should succeed in bringing the Nestos Delta rapidly into a situation where this Ramsar Site can finally be removed from the Montreux Record.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

Georgios Kritikos, director of Kavala Province Development Agency, Hans Jerrentrup, director of the Society for Protection of Nature and Ecodevelopment, and Dimitris Papadopoulos, head of the Kavala Province Forestry Service (f.l.t.r.) in the Nestos delta riverine forest.

A view of Nestos river close to its mouth into the Aegean Sea.


An observation hide erected along a nature discovery path in the riverine forest by the Society for Protection of Nature and Ecodevelopment

Delta shoreline near the Nestos river mouth


Chrysogiola lake, one of the freshwater lakes surrounded by extensive reedbeds in the northen part of the Nestos delta near Hrisopoulis town

Exhibit in the new education centre opened by the Forestry Service in the riverine forest restoration area


Agios Nikolaos monastery built on a small island inside a lagoon near Porto Lagos, part of the nearby Ramsar Site "Lake Vistonis, Porto Lagos, Lake Ismaris and Adjoining Lagoons"

D. Papadopoulos, T. Salathé, Prefect Th. Kalliontzis and G. Kritikos (f.l.t.r.) in discussions over the maps of the Nestos delta at Keramoti beach close to the Nestos river mouth.

The public hearing at Kavala town hall with (f.l.t.r) T. Salathé, G. Kritikos (translating), Prefect Th. Kalliontzis, and Dimitra Spala of the Greek Ramsar Administration Authority

Overlooking lake Mitrikou, a freshwater lake of outstanding importance for waterbirds, part of Ramsar Site "Lake Vistonis, Porto Lagos, Lake Ismaris & Adjoining Lagoons"