Recently, after the decision to expand the airport, there has been a debate and some concern was expressed about the possible impact of this project. Let’s see what is really happening with this project.
The project is funded after the inclusion of the Act “Development and improvement of infrastructure of the new airport of Paros” in the Operational Program “Y.ME.PER.A.A 2014 – 2020”. The cost of the project amounts to 46.2 million euros incl VAT.
If the construction starts in the first half of 2022, then it can be completed before the summer of 2025.
What will be built.
A new terminal with a surface of about 13,000 sq. meters (the current airport has 745 sq. meters.), including parking spaces, the internal road network, a sewage treatment plant, security outpost, configuration of the space between the airport and the aircraft parking area. The equipment of the terminal is to include: Baggage management system, flight notice system, CUTE system (Common User Terminal Equipment), which significantly reduces queues and overcrowding during check-in, (this system has been installed in other airports in the country). With the new extension, the landing strip will reach a length of 1,799 meters compared to the existing 1,400 meters.
Finally, the construction of a new control tower of 159 sq. meters, and construction of a fire station of 563 sq. meters.
In addition, a study has been prepared for the hydraulic protection of the slopes of the new airport, for the implementation of hydraulic projects and asphalt paving, a project considered by the CAA, necessary for technical and environmental reasons. With the wastewater treatment plant, the treatment capacity will be increased and the subsoil disposal of the treated wastewater.
The purpose of the project is to offer better passenger facilities, to offer opportunities for attracting new investments in the context of sustainable development and the protection of the particular local environment. Significantly, it will also upgrade the services for the residents of Paros, facilitating their travel to the mainland, for health services and other “central” services.
They will also have direct access to European or neighboring destinations. The benefits of the new airport include an increase in employment with new jobs being created both during the construction phase of the project and during the operation of the airport. Also, the upgraded airport will increase of the value of the real estate and the production of local products.
The Objections: The main controversy is based on the fear of over-tourism that will put a strain on existing infrastructure. The roads will not withstand additional traffic, there will not be enough water and electricity, the volume of garbage will become unmanageable, and the sewer system will not withstand so much volume of sewage. The lack of a General Hospital will become even more pronounced.
The island will be fatally transformed into another “Mykonos” and the life of the inhabitants will be degraded. From the moment the charter flights ” Will come down”, large tourist resorts will be built to accommodate the incoming tourism. With the ease of air transportation, there will be more interest in buying or building new homes resulting in the island being built from end to end.
The project is a decision of the “state” and will serve interests that do not correspond to the local ones. Residents of the surrounding areas of the airport are concerned about the increase of noise pollution.
Let’s look at these objections more closely. As the beds on the island are a given number, the number of visitors will not increase. On the contrary, there is a high probability that they will decrease and in fact, without external intervention, the market will regulate this on its own. According to SETE data, out of the total number of visitors in Greece, 10% leave 30% of the turnover, they are the so-called “high end”. In a way, the higher the services provided, the lower the number of visitors.
Paros is the ideal place for “high end” visitors. Apart from the high end with luxury features, there are also the tourists with alternative features and the island can satisfy both types of visitors. The new airport will induce high level investments in accommodation, services, catering, and there will be a demand for “high level” local products.
The building is a reality, but it also happens currently without the new airport. If we look at the General Urban Planning that is valid for the island from May 2012, we will that allows the construction of 4- or 5-star hotels up to 80 beds in a field of 15 acres and above. Here the myth that huge tourist resorts will be built is refuted. As for the building of houses outside the plan, the prerequisite is to possess an terrain set at 8 acres (by way of derogation 4 acres in the old cut). There are two types of “zones”, the one that builds 100 sq. m. plus 20 sq. m. semi-outdoor with stone load-bearing masonry and the one that builds 280 sq. m .. In both “zones”, are not allowed any basement, floor other than the ground floor and swimming pool.
In addition, by “limiting partitions”, things become more difficult, e.g. one can own 50 acres of land and be allowed to build 100 sq. m. plus 20 sq. m. semi-outdoor without basement, first floor and pool. (And the owner is not free to divide his land say to parcels of 8 acres) There are also land use zones which protect the agricultural production.
We can see that now on the island, very few new hotels are being built, on the contrary many hotels are being renovated. There are very few beds that will be added and many that will be upgraded. And, if say, 100 new hotels could be built tomorrow, we would have 8,000 new beds. More than those created in the last 40 years. According to ELSTAT, in 2018 there were in Paros 4 hotels with 5 stars, with 211 rooms and 411 beds. Here we see the poverty of accommodation services.
The water is sufficient and comes from approximately 750 wells and 2 desalination plants that will be further strengthened with two new ones in Paroikia. Electricity is also enough since the island is already connected to the mainland. The road network is the best and most extensive in the Cyclades with the only problem being the ring road of Paroikia, which at some point will also find its solution.
There are three wastewater treatment plants, who are further enhanced, upgraded to tertiary treatment and the water that will be produced will be suitable for irrigation. Paros has a landfill and there is a study for a second cell that has been submitted for funding.
Regarding the solid waste management, the island does quite well. It will do even better with the two” Green Points” and a Biowaste Treatment Plant (BWW). The studies have been submitted for funding. Green Points (GPs) are demarcated and landscaped areas, with appropriate building infrastructure and equipment where deposited: recyclable materials, collected separately, such as paper, glass, metals, plastics, fabrics, edible oils or used items, equipment, furniture (equipment) electrical and electronic equipment) to be subsequently promoted for recycling or reuse. They also can collect green residues (branches, pruning, leaves, etc.). Regarding recycling, there is a Recyclable Materials Sorting Center (KDAW).
In terms of visitor’s numbers, at the peak period of the year, the boats bring about 23 thousand visitors a day and air travel about 1.500. Therefore, we have a total of 25 thousand visitors. With the upgrade of the airport, the air passengers will make a difference at best of 5 thousand passengers.
Let us note that the island is not an independent state and belongs to a whole, the Greek territory. It has rights and obligations and is part of the national planning and the laws. Let us imagine what the country would be like if the civil societies decided for the airport of Athens or the port of Piraeus or the big hospitals of Athens or for the Egnatia Odos etc.
I left for the end the serious problem that will arise with the noise pollution and the problems that it will bring to the residents around the airport. It is certain that measures must be taken to alleviate the problem of this nuisance.
Epilogue: This important project can accelerate the realization of other necessary infrastructure projects and rearrange the tourist market of the island.
The new airport can reverse the path to catastrophic hypertourism and rectify the situation. It will prolong the tourist season and thus there will be a more rational distribution of visitors within it, with the result that the Municipal Authority could make better planning of its services.
The island will have another project that will become an advantage, so that it can go ahead and leave behind the outdated model it offers until today.
Paros has all the characteristics to take the path of the cosmopolitan “high end ” and of the “alternative tourism”. The island could be chosen as a permanent residence for those who own houses on the island, so as to increase the number of permanent residents, As well as attracting more “digital nomads”.
Then maybe we could talk about building a hospital. We must keep in mind that the island lives from tourism and for several days at the peak season, the place will be crowded. But let us have a little patience when it comes to the prosperity of the place.
What is certain is that the cultural and social characteristics of the island, help not to become another “Mykonos” nor “Amorgos” or “Kimolos”. Those who dream of such a thing will be disappointed.
Sources: ELSTAT, SETE, Service of Civil Aviation (YPA) , Ministry of Interior, “ANTONIS TRITSIS” Program, Municipality of Paros, DEYAP.