Greece Utilizes Space Technology to Tackle Overpopulation on Beaches

The Greek Ministry of Digital Governance is using satellite imagery and artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and enforce the country’s regulations regarding the use of its 8,000 beaches. The new initiative comes as a response to the widespread issue of illegal beach equipment such as sunbeds, umbrellas, and chairs that clutter the beaches, particularly during the summer season.

Currently, businesses are allowed to lease up to 50% of non-protected areas and 30% of European Union-protected zones of public beaches. However, due to lax enforcement of these regulations, many businesses have been exploiting the system, often occupying more space than allowed and limiting access to non-paying customers.

Luxury resorts along Greece’s coastlines have been identified as the main culprits, as these establishments have been accused of turning public beaches into their own private enclaves and charging high fees for access.

To address this issue, the Greek government, in partnership with the University of the Aegean, will intensify efforts to curb these violations starting in June. They will use AI technology to identify and penalise offending businesses during the high-traffic summer season. However, the specific consequences for businesses found to be in violation of the rules have not yet been detailed.

This move by the Greek government comes after last summer’s widespread protests, known as the “beach towel revolt”, where locals expressed their discontent over the high fees charged by beachfront businesses. Efthymia Sarantakou of the University of West Attica pointed out the lack of oversight that has allowed businesses to operate with impunity and even resort to intimidation tactics against civilians trying to access free beach areas.

This initiative serves as a reminder of the potential of AI and satellite technology in monitoring and enforcing regulations, not just on beaches, but in other public spaces as well. It also highlights the need for governments to balance the interests of businesses with those of the public, especially in areas of shared resources such as beaches. If successful, this initiative could serve as a model for other countries facing similar issues.

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