Tiny Tilos, in the Dodecanese, is a pioneering nature reserve. Now, Greece’s ‘green island’ is set to be powered by renewable energy.
You’re more likely to run into friendly partridges, rare orchids and endangered eagles than people as you trek around Tilos. The entire Dodecanese island is a nature reserve, with more than 150 species of resident and migratory birds, over 650 plant varieties, and a permanent population hovering around 500. Tilos owes its extraordinary biodiversity to a network of underground springs that feed five wetlands – but also to the late mayor, Tassos Aliferis, a committed environmentalist who earned Tilos its reputation as “Greece’s green island”.
Aliferis banned hunting in 1993. (He also conducted the first same-sex marriages in Greece in 2008 long before they became legal in 2015.) The current mayor, Maria Kamma, continues to champion sustainable development, and human rights. She has extended an open invitation to refugee families to settle on Tilos, working with the NGO SolidarityNow and the UNHCR to establish sheltered accommodation, language classes and mentoring schemes to help asylum-seekers set up organic farming businesses in partnership with locals.
“We want to revive traditions that were dying out due to a dwindling population, like making cheese and gathering medicinal herbs. By integrating refugees, we can boost the local economy and encourage eco-tourism.”
(Maria Kamma, mayor of Tilos)
[Photo by almekri01 | Flickr]