The discussion of the proposed Pera Pedi project by the House environment committee on Wednesday was very useful as it revealed the objections of the Forestry Department and the reservations of the Water Development Department (WDD). Other government bodies, such as the Limassol District Office and the CTO took a positive approach, citing the policy declaration for the development of the countryside through tourism projects.
The proposed project, which would consist of a 168-bed hotel, spa, sports facilities, five villas with pools, a church and stables for eight horses, will be built on a mountainside and would require the chopping down of more than 2,000 trees. Construction will cover 24,200 square metres on a plot of 196,550 sq. m.
Apart from the felling of the trees, there were also concerns about the closeness of the development to the 20 km protection zone of Kouris dam. Environmentalists said there was a danger of polluting the water in the dam through the possible seepage of effluent from the hotel, a concern echoed by the head of the WDD. They also warned that as many as 3,000 trees would have to be cut down because of the need to create anti-fire zones.
While measures to protect the quality of the water in Kouris dam could be taken, it is very difficult to justify cutting down 3,000 trees for yet another tourist development, which is keenly supported by the Pera Pedi community. Unfortunately, the lack of measure that characterises most things in Cyprus combined with a disregard for the natural environment are evident in our tourism policy. We have learnt nothing from the destruction caused by rampant development to the island’s coasts and now we want to extend this development model to our largely unspoilt mountain areas.
Why does tourist development always have to involve big construction projects? Developers have done enough harm to the hillsides surrounding Paphos and they should not be let loose on the Troodos mountain range as well, in the name of tourist development. We all know that if license is given to the Pera Pedi project, it will only be a matter of time before more such development projects are undertaken, chopping down more trees, erecting hundreds of standardised holiday villas and ruining our mountain countryside.
Cyprus’ forests must be protected at all costs. Strict restrictions should be imposed by law on tourism development in the mountain forests because neither our politicians nor our bureaucrats can be trusted to take the right decisions when a wealthy investor arrives flashing the cash. The felling of large numbers of trees should be prohibited and so should big leisure complexes that ruin the natural beauty of our mountains. We have destroyed our coasts, we can at least protect our mountain forests.