By Bejay Browne
A SERIES of meetings with the agriculture minister concerning plans for the Akamas region got underway in Nicosia on Thursday.
The purpose of the meetings is a bid to weigh up all opinions before submitting the final management plan for the area, according to minister Nicos Kouyialis.
“I would like to hear from all of the major stake holders before a major decision is taken,” he told the Cyprus Mail.
The Akamas was named a protected natural habitat by Natura 2000, a network of protected areas within the EU, a move which displeased many of the residents who own land within its limits.
In the last 25 years, various governments have repeatedly presented the land owners with expropriation proposals but have been rejected every time. Land owners and residents have argued that it is unfair not to allow them to develop what is now classed as prime real estate.
Conservationists oppose any development within the natural reserve.
Antonia Theodosiou, who has been appointed by the environmental department as a director of the Akamas areas for the last three and a half years, observed the meetings.
She said: “I’m a consultant with the villages on behalf of the ministry and observed the meetings today. The minister met with the mukhtars of the villages of the area and will listen to views of the stakeholders before submitting the final Natura 2000 management plan.”
The views of the game fund, the forestry department, other stakeholders and relevant government departments will also be considered by the minister, she said.
The minister also met with EVE, the Paphos chamber of commerce, and the technical chamber ETEK.
“Next week, I will hear from NGOs and environmental organisations,” he said.
These will include the Friends of the Akamas whose president, Christos Theodorou, confirmed that they are due to meet the minister on October 2.
“We will present him with our final opinions, although we gave him an extensive report a few months ago. This is a final meeting to convey our strongest points.”
He continued: “We believe that the Akamas must retain its natural environment and become a good example of a protected park, avoiding allowing any developers to build anything in the protected area. We can’t stress this enough, and feel very strongly about it.”
Other issues concern how the park will be managed. Theodorou said that some infrastructure development to aid villagers to remain in their villages were necessary. He said, however, that the park must be kept clear of all vehicles.
“Park roads, such as those seen in other countries can only be for trekkers, hikers and cycling. No cars or anything else should be allowed in the park. It needs to be better organised and visitors to the area will park at spaces on the outskirts, where beverages will be available. But this must be outside the perimeter of the park,” he stressed.
According to Kouyialis, a ministerial meeting scheduled for November 14 will discuss the management plan.
“The plan for the communities which Antonia Theodosiou has devised and all the proposals from the communities will be discussed,” he said.
The minister added: “By the end of the year I hope that the ministerial committee will have a proposal for the council of ministers.”