Changes in rural areas and regional development.

Author:Theodoropoulou, Helen
 
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INTRODUCTION

Rural regions are influenced by social-economic changes. More specifically, demographic changes increase social and cultural divergence within rural regions and at the same time affected local values and standard of living. Also, the economy of rural regions differentiates as the service sector is increased considerably at the expense of agriculture. The dynamics of rural change and the non-homogeneous development observed in numerous rural regions has been the object of many studies of political planning for rural development. While planning a rural developmental policy most of countries opt for a policy strategy that takes into consideration the attainment of sustainability.

Sustainable development is a strategy aiming at comprehension of the relations between the society and the environment, as well as particular relations created in the society and the economic system. Sustainable development encompasses three basic dimensions: environmental, economic and social. The basic aim of achieving quality life for every individual at any time in any place that will include decent living and social participation in a suitable environment creates three basic needs:

* Social need: Intensification of social cohesion via justice between individuals, countries, social teams

* Economic need: Economic development to the degree that will ensure sustainability

* Environmental need: Long lasting guarantee of a clean environment on a world standard (1-4), (6), (7), (9), (10)

Taking into consideration previous research such as by Hazel Henderson (The Oregon Benchmarks Program), various scientists have attempted a range of strategies of measuring sustainable development finally concluding in three groups of variables: Social, economic and environmental (1). Social variables value the quality of life and development. In general terms, social variables describe populations and demographic density, the level of satisfaction of residents from their research and the prospects that each municipality offers to them, but also more generally, literacy and educational level that affect investment, technology and quality of life. Useful economic variables are those that provide information for economic activities such as profits from tourism and its possibilities. The environment and its protection are essential conditions in the frame of sustainable development. The usefulness of these environmental variables is important, because they give information for regions on the state of their environment and the impact of human activities on it. Environmental variables mainly refer to atmosphere, air, water and the ecosystem (9-13), (15).

During the last decade, substantial new infrastructure development took place in rural areas in central Greece, which have changed the social, economic and environment conditions in this area. The most important structures that developed and changed the character of the study area were related to a ski resort, agritourism establishments and a new road that joined the city of Athens with these areas. In view of the fact that these areas are now more accessible from the city of Athens, many people, who work and live in Athens, choose and go for vacation to those rural areas. The result is that there is an increasing demand for agritourism establishments and the character of the land is changing from that of farms to residential areas. The increasing population and real estate without a specific plan for growth can have a negative effect on sustainable development (14), (16), (17).

The aim of the present study is to examine and illustrate the...

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