Sustainable policies in Insular Regions

INSULEUR gives an overview of recent policies developments in the MED region.

BLUEISLANDS partner INSULEUR is the Network of the Insular Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the European Union. INSULEUR has a key role in the partnership as they are an essential intermediate to reach insular companies, for instance in the HORECA sector, thus ensuring the spreading of information from both sides.

INSULEUR is also well aware of the constraints faced by islands, which are central to the BLUEISLANDS project. They are also knowledgeable when it comes to their many assets and the new policies supporting sustainable development on islands described below.

The comparative advantage of Mediterranean islands is the beautiful and clean marine and land environment. The appealing waters and beaches are the main reason that holiday makers visit these islands. However, the absence of the appropriate infrastructure reduces the carrying capacity of the islands and restrains the ability for further tourist development.

There have been positive changes, and some policies aiming to reduce the use of plastic products (mainly plastic bags, cups, bottles, and straws) have recently been adopted, thus leading to great improvements in waste management. According to EU data the products mentioned above are responsible for 70% of waste in the marine environment. Besides environmental concerns, this data also raise worries regarding human health.

At national, regional and local level, many other good practices can be found. Regarding plastics reduction, the Greek Government recently enforced a campaign taxing the use of plastic bags. Within a few months, consumption was reduced by about 70%. With similar objectives, the island of Syros first enforced in 2015 a pilot project named LIFE DEBAG, changing consumer behaviour on the island with great results.

Related to waste in general, the EUSAIR strategy for Blue Growth for the Adriatic and Ionian Sea region, and especially Pillar 3 “Environmental Quality” aims to ensure a good environment for marine and coastal regions by 2020 and improve waste management by reducing waste flows. The Greek National plan for solid waste management which has started to be enforced on many Greek Islands is also a good example of Circular Economy logic. This plan has as a goal to sort garbage at the source, increase recycling and retrieving organic waste for composting.

As for waste water management, there is a great need for more sewerage networks. Projects for the reuse of Waste Water for safe watering in the agricultural sector have been at the heart of recent talks in the EU. This will help solve many other problems in insular areas as the water resources are highly constricted. Such measures will reduce environmental pollution and increase agricultural production.

A further investment with substantial EU funds must be channelled towards the infrastructure of island areas to preserve the environment and adapt to the great inflow of visitors to the islands. Implementing policies and measures in this direction will create conditions for sustainable growth and tourist development. More importantly, this will have a great effect on the health of the inhabitants and maintain their good quality of life.

This article is based on a contribution from Mr Tsipiras of INSULEUR.