The following information notice was published from the press office of the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy
Tuesday, 18 January 2022
How are “Untrodden Mountains” defined?
“Untrodden Mountains” are defined as Roadless Areas (RAs) surrounded by a buffer zone of one kilometer (RAs+ radius 1 km). In these areas new roads and other artificial interventions, which alter or degrade the natural environment, are prohibited. In addition, they are subject to a strict protection regime.
Which areas will be included in the Untrodden Mountains?
- Lefka Ori – Area: 382.06 sq.km. | Altitude: 0-2.453 m.
- Saos – Area: 97.30 sq.km. | Altitude: 0-1.611 m.
- Smolikas – Area: 102.89 sq.km. | Altitude: 782-2.637 m.
- Tymfi – Area: 202.75 sq.km. | Altitude: 460-2.497 m.
- Taygetos – Area: 143.23 sq.km. | Altitude: 432-2.407 m.
- Hatzi – Area: 45.61 sq.km. | Altitude: 598-2.038 m.
How did we institutionalize Roadless Areas?
By Ministerial Decision, authorizing article 47 of law 4685/2020, per region:
- Formal ban of the construction of roads accessible by motor vehicles, the extension of the existing ones regardless of category, as well as any kind of technical intervention, alteration, or deterioration of the natural environment.
- Legally existing projects and their maintenance are not affected.
- Marking, repairing, maintaining, and improving existing mountaineering and hiking trails is allowed, without the use of motorized means of access and provided that the interventions will be implemented with natural materials.
- Projects for the purposes of National Defense, as defined in accordance with the provisions of current legislation, are excluded from the terms and restrictions.
- Projects and interventions that are implemented due to emergencies (earthquakes, floods, disasters, fires, etc.) are excluded from the above prohibitions, if care is taken afterwards for the restoration of the environment, as well as projects and interventions that are deemed necessary for reasons of protection and or restoration of the natural and forest environment.
Is this initiative blocking investments?
“Untrodden Mountains” are a brake on the overexploitation of the environment by human activities, but without putting obstacles in investments, as they concern areas untouched over time.
Ecotourism can be developed in any area that is interesting in terms of biodiversity and landscape aesthetics, contributing to the maintenance or creation of incentives for the transition to green economic activity such as organic farming, promotion of traditional products, etc.
What are the benefits of “Untrodden Mountains”?
- They contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.
- They prevent the entry of invasive alien species.
- They provide migration routes and intermediate stopovers to fauna species.
- They capture carbon and reduce the effects of greenhouse gases.
- They maintain the connectivity and integrity of ecosystems.
- They offer recreation, education, and scientific knowledge to citizens.
- They regulate and maintain ecosystem services: clean water supply, erosion control, healthy soil, air quality, climate regulation, crop pollination, high resistance to parasite epidemics.
How do we define “land fragmentation” and what are the consequences of this phenomenon?
Land fragmentation is the segmentation of natural ecosystems into pieces by the increase of roads and artificial surfaces.
Fragmentation has direct consequences in:
- Loss, congregation, and isolation of the habitats of species
- Population declines and local extinctions of species
- Degradation of ecological processes
Greece’s fragmentation index is half than that of Europe, but it is growing faster. Specifically:
- Greece was ranked in the first place of artificial land increase in Europe (2015)
- Construction sites and roads consume more land in Greece than in Europe.
- The road network of Greece has a length of more than 367,000 km, while the probability of being at a distance greater than one kilometer from any road is only 5.43%.
What is the relationship of roads with biodiversity loss?
Roads facilitate the transport of people and goods and are directly linked to enhancing economic development locally and nationally.
Despite the significant benefits of having a useful road network, roads are related to the top five causes of biodiversity loss worldwide, which are in descending order of severity:
- Land use change
- Direct natural resources exploitation
- Climate change
- Invasive species
Roads are therefore considered to be one of the main causes of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation worldwide, especially when penetrating natural ecosystems and formerly undisturbed areas.
The habitats of species are shrinking, populations are isolated, wildlife mortality from vehicle collisions on the road network is increasing.
At the same time, all the ecosystem services associated with the soil, such as decomposition, or nitrogen cycle, are lost, as the soil is sealed and converted into artificial land.
Human health is indirectly affected through the increase of pollution and the facilitation of the spread of diseases.
Why are “Roadless Areas” a matter of global interest?
We live in an unprecedented time of biodiversity crisis. The sixth mass extinction of species in Earth history, attributed to anthropogenic causes, has begun, and at least 70% of the earth has been degraded, posing a serious threat to human well-being.
At the same time, we live in a time of culmination of the expansion of artificial surfaces and especially of roads.
The length of the new paved roads is expected to increase by 59% by 2050.
Top scientists consider road construction as the worst threat to the planet for the loss of biodiversity, and therefore the preservation of Roadless Areas as the key policy to halt the loss of biodiversity.
This new trend of conservation of Roadless Areas has now been embraced by global societies (SCB, IUCN, UNEP, Conservation International, Tebtebba) and the issue has taken global dimensions at the United Nations Summit on the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11, India. and in Rio + 20, Brazil, 2012).
Is there a statute of “Untrodden Mountains” in the EU?
Greece becomes the first country in Europe to institutionalize “Untrodden Mountains”.
The issue of natural land fragmentation was considered to be one of the greatest challenges in the EU in the vote of the European Parliament on 08/06/2021 for the new Biodiversity Strategy 2030, entitled “Return of Nature to our lives”, which took place in early June. Besides, the obligation to assign a strict protection regime to at least 10% of the territory of each country was voted.
The European Commission has put forward a proposal for legally binding EU restoration targets in 2021. The restoration of EU ecosystems will contribute to enhance biodiversity, mitigate and adapt to climate change and prevent and reduce the effects of natural disasters.
The main objective of the EU initiative is to restore degraded ecosystems, especially those with the greatest potential:
- Carbon capture and storage.
- Prevention and reduction of the effects of natural disasters.
- Soil health and pollination.
- Improving the knowledge and monitoring of ecosystems and their services.
With the institutionalization of the Untrodden Mountains, we proactively follow this restoration policy.
“Roadless Areas” conservation first began in 2001 in the United States under the title “The Roadless Rule” and is currently being studied by the European Union to be integrated into the objectives of the Green Agreement.
With what goals are “Roadless Areas” harmonized?
Roadless Areas contribute to the achievement of 12 objectives of the National Biodiversity Strategy such as:
- Preservation of the national physical capital (objective 2.1).
- Delineation of ecological corridors (objective 3.3).
- Enhancement of the synergy of key sectoral policies by conserving biodiversity and establishing incentives (targets 5.1-5.8).
- Conservation of landscape diversity (objective 6.2).
- Dealing with invasive alien species (objective 8.2).
Furthermore, based on the recent United Nations National Assessment Report on the Sustainable Development Goals, eight national priorities were set by the General Secretariat of the Government for Agenda 2030.
The designation of the extended RAs and their introduction in the spatial planning of the country, is documented as a positive contribution to the achievement of three Sustainable Development Goals:
- Responsible consumption and production (goal 12).
- Climate action (goal 13).
- Life on land (goal 15)
In the context of the 6th national priority under the title: “Strengthening the protection and sustainable management of natural capital as a basis for social prosperity and the transition to a low carbon economy”
Finally, Roadless Areas are in line with the European Landscape Convention, as ratified by Greece, according to which the landscape is “a key component of the European natural and cultural heritage”.
FROM THE PRESS OFFICE