Present Status

Right up to the mid 19th century viticulture was the most important form of agriculture. But with the spread of Phylloxera, the grape louse, at the beginning of the 20th century, a certain stagnation overtook grape growing and some of the agricultural land in the plain was abandoned. This led in turn to the emigration of the population and the first wave of depopulation of the rural settlements. In the partially abandoned villages, the traditional spatial organisation of the dwelling house ­ outhouse complexes was retained, but the physical structure of them was now under threat because there were not enough inhabitants to keep them up. The process of de-agriculturation went on in the 1945­1954 period, when the creation of collective farms led to labour surpluses in the country side, and a new wave of depopulation.

At the end of the 20th century, the depopulation of the countryside was halted. Little holdings were consolidated, people returned to cultivating the vine and olive, but now with contemporary mechanisation. For this manner of cultivation, wider roads and bigger plots are needed, and the need arose for expansion. This menaced the old network of narrow paths and the dry stone boundary lines, and the many unexplored archaeological sites.

Although in the last fifty years or so the plain has been under strong pressure from the construction of infrastructure facilities, of local roads and small, architecturally valueless commercial structures built with contemporary materials, the basic structure of the plain, divided by its dry stone walls, within which are little field huts built of stone in the traditional way, nothing has essentially changed. The original look of the plain has been preserved, and together with the settlements located at the edges creates a unique cultural landscape.

The agricultural plain of Stari Grad and its environment are an example of very ancient traditional human settlement, which is today under threat from modern economic development, particularly from rural depopulation and the abandonment of traditional farming practices. Apparently, no more than 40% of the farming land in the plain is being cultivated today. Other threats to the site concern illegal exploitation of stone, illegal construction, unregulated touristic development desertification, as well as the extinction of the traditional artisan crafts. Another issue that needs to be faced is that of the unaware population that often perceives protection & preservation efforts as obstacles to development, because they are not fully educated as to the natural, historical, and cultural importance of the site.

The designation of the plain as an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 and the setting up of the management plan and of the authority in charge of its application should enable the carrying out of a thorough programme of archaeological excavations, the fostering of sustainable agricultural development in the chora and the control of urban and tourism development in the vicinity of the property, with all due care being taken.

The Management plan of the area is implemented by the Directorate/Agency for the Protection of Nature of the Ministry of Culture, while the Ministry of Environment and Construction is in the control of the implementation of measures for the protection of the natural and landscape heritage.

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