Attica, Greece is a region with extensive wetlands that include streams, estuaries and coastal marshes. The land area is also heavily in use for agriculture and experiences competition from various anthropocentric uses which have created a largely degraded environment. The wetlands that dot the region, are largely considered by communities as the remaining environmental hotspots and serve not only as ecologically important areas but peoples’ remaining contact with nature. They are for this reason, closely tied to community use and general well being. To protect these wetlands, an Attica Wetland Action Plan was developed.
Recognising the need for the sustainable and ecological management of these wetlands the Environmental Department of Attica Regional Authority with support from the Greek Biotope Wetland Centre (EKBY) developed an Attica Wetland Action Plan. The Action Plan is designed around seven axes under which measures with specific priority actions are identified. The strategy includes sustainable management and restoration of wetlands; their interconnection in a green arc; the evaluation of the services provided; awareness raising and environmental education in biodiversity and climate change and citizen participation.
The Action Plan is built on seven axes under which measures are listed and assigned priority. The development of the Action Plan sought to protect and preserve the biodiverse wetlands while simultaneously creating sustainable opportunities for use by the local community. In order to ensure acceptance and eventual implementation of the Action Plan, participation by the affected communities was central to its design and development. While there were no issues in developing the plan, ensuring its effective implementation faced several limiting factors including limited funds, operational capacity of involved services and bodies to take proposed action measure, regulation of land uses in relation to protection and restoration.
The region of Attica is a Metropolitan Region and the first in Greece to be mobilized towards a climate change adaptation strategy. It therefore was new in bringing a participatory process forward to propose management for natural ecosystems while dealing with sensitive issues of competitive land use between agricultural needs and environmental ones. The local authorities development of an Adaptation Plan brought together local authorities, social groups, environmental organisations and research institutes for the protection of wetlands in its jurisdiction.
Cost-effective and innovative aspects
The planned implementation of the Action Plan is meant to mitigate the effects of human interventions resulting from usage (i.e. agriculture) as well as pressures stemming from climate change. Implementing the suggested measures is expected to improve the protection of the coasts by reducing the effects of waves, storms and currents. It is also expected to improve water quality in the region by trapping sediments, nutrients and toxic substances. It is also expected to improve the possibility of economic returns of those using the wetlands.
During the development of the Adaptation Plan several awareness raising events were organized in the wetland in order to involve and educate local community members. For example, in 2014 a training seminar “Adaptation Strategy for Attica Wetlands” provided hands-on training for some 80 participants. In 2015, the Attica Region had a Green Week event called “Raising support to restore the wetland of Brexiza, in the Region of Attica Greece” which brought some 90 individuals to Brexiza to learn about the biodiversity of the area and its historical importance as an archaeological site of the Roman great temple of the Egyptian gods. Through public support, this event brought about a dialogue on Brexiza wetland restoration and biodiversity protection as well as on the implementation of the Action Plan.
Prior to the development of the regional Adaptation Plan, knowledge and awareness about climate change adaptation and wetlands in particular was low and non-existent in the community. The partnership between the Regional Authority and a scientific environmental organisation, was an important partnership for mutual learning and the introduction of climate change planning for the first time. Moreover, the development of the Adptation Plan was participatory in its design, and thus generated wide support for the suggested measures despite previous issues related to competitive land use and widespread environmental degradation. The development of the Adaptation Plan had the effect of raising awareness of citizens and other actors, facilitating new collaborations between private, public and governmental actors, and generally brought into consideration a sustainable management plan for the wetlands.
In regions or situations where adaptation to climate change is being introduced for the first time, ensuring a participatory process whereby actors develop management plans through mutual learning and exchange