ATHENS – Economic development projects around the world require Environmental Impact Statements, or their equivalents, and that includes the $9 billion project at the long-abandoned Hellenikon airport near Athens – but while it is safety first for the demolition team, the animals that have called it home for more than a decade are in danger, and are the concern of citizens and activists like Julie Kelly and Magda Panoutsopoulou.
Kelley is an entrepreneur who devotes much of her time to animal welfare in Greece and globally and is the Founder of the NGO Let’s Be S.M.A.R.T. (Successfully Managing Animal Rights Today). Panoutsopoulou, in addition to being a full time mom, is also a Freelance Journalist and an animal activist. She is a member of the animal welfare committee of Kifissia and is a Volunteer with Nine Lives Greece since 2006.
Kelly said her efforts focus is on solutions which she believes stems from education and collaborating with communities for an overall joint effort. “
As a business person, Kelly appreciates that Hellenikon “is a great economical addition,” but she believes it is important “to also consider the ecosystem that settled itself during these vacated times, including 300+ stray cats, dogs, foxes, hedgehogs and more species existing off this land.”
Panoutsopoulou adds that “the development is underway, demolition and clearing of the property beginning but are the living beings of this ecosystem being managed, relocated, protected, and safe? Typically, the responsibility would be in the hands of the Demos – the municipality – for the area. But can they alone manage this great task? We reached out to Lamda Development” who own the project, she said, “but were unable to obtain comments after asking them about their plan to help contribute to the social responsibility it should have as it is taking possession of this great property.”
The concept of corporate social responsibility has been gaining traction in Greece, however. Panoutsopoulou said, “in these difficult times, we must make a shift from the old ways of business and incorporate preservation for the inhabitants of this property … We look to Lamda Development as a sophisticated company that we hope will work closely with the Demos and local organizations to manage this great task and to contribute toward a progressive global mindset. There should be funds required to be ear marked for such a task and a well-organized joint collaboration to set out and successfully save these stray animals dependent on this land.”
Kelly told The National Herald “since 2018 when the land was sold to become a luxurious resort site, both municipalities, Alimos and Hellenikon, had been informed multiple times by the local Volunteers feeding the strays in order to find a solution. No serious action was taken and only a few organizations such as the Greek Animal Rescue budgeted funds to help trap and neuter some of the animals.”
Panoutsopoulou said “this action was just a temporary solution and a way to help the population not grow, but ultimately these animals needed a real and humane plan for their rescue and safety, none of which currently exists. The responsibility became a finger pointing game and in the end, the animals are the ones to suffer for the inabilities of the humans. As more publicity has been created regarding this situation, the municipalities took some minor action to show an interest,” however.
“There was a meeting on June 10 this year,” Kelley said, “between the President of the Pan Hellenic Animal Welfare & Environmental Federation (PFPO), the Vice Mayor of the Municipality of Elliniko-Argiroupoli and the President of the Pan-Hellenic team against animal abuse. Unfortunately, we are not seeing the results that should be managed on behalf of our innocent strays. A fence that was installed around the property which now impedes access for feeding many of these animals and even traps the animals.”
There continues to be scattered efforts to remove some of the animals, get them sterilized, chipped and relocated, but the efforts are nowhere near what is needed to successfully ensure these animals will be safe and protected according to Panoutsopoulou.
Kelley informs that “there is now a Facebook Page tracking the issue and it was reported that twelve more cats were recently trapped, will be chipped, and be relocated.”
Panoutsopoulou continued, “we hope more involvement will lead to a better organized effort to once and for all take a high-level responsibility for this issue. As Greece has just become one of the global champions in managing the COVID-19, we would like to see Greece one of the champions for managing its animal welfare, which most know is quite a sore issue here, with a lot of struggles on a regular basis. We are in 2020 AD and we look for an intelligent, organized and responsible team management including all parties i.e. the central government, municipalities, the developer, the communities, and local organizations as an integrated and amicable effort and solution for this Hellenikon project and throughout Greece as a whole. Let’s set an example for the EU and show we are on a higher ethical and moral level of awareness and are considerate of all living beings, a complete and balanced system for our great future. In our Democratic system, let our animals be considered part of our equality base. We believe a positive solution to this issue will lead to a more successful and positive project completion.”