Climate change and building on riverbeds could leave Cyprus experiencing the type of destructive floods that claimed lives and left many homeless in Greece, officials said on Wednesday.
The environment commissioner, Ioanna Panayiotou, told the House ethics committee that unless a plan is implemented to sort out chaotic town planning, Cyprus could experience major floods.
As climate change progresses, Panayiotou said, the island could face floods like those experienced in Greece last week. The flash flood reportedly was caused by the obstruction of a riverbed, part of which had been built over and turned into a parking lot.
“In Cyprus, we have obstructed rivers. The ‘Island Plan’, which would put in order town planning has not been implemented yet, so the danger is there, ” Panayiotou said.
The commissioner was referring to need to activate Article 7 of the town planning law which is an integrated plan for the island. Also known as the ‘Island Plan’ it sets out economic, cultural, social and population planning objectives mainly in rural areas.
This, the commissioner maintains, would help solve many problems in the countryside and set criteria for rational and sustainable development.
The commissioner has been pushing for the implementation of the Island Plan for a number of years.
The absence of such a plan, Panayiotou said earlier in the year, has led to uneven development between various areas and the lack of connection between them, the waste of natural resources, deforestation and the uneven distribution of national and European funds.
The head of the committee, Zacharias Zachariou, said that the agriculture ministry has made a list of high risk areas and called for the timely introduction of measures.
He warned that “consequences should be expected” where riverbeds have been built on.
Zachariou referred specifically to houses built on a riverbed in Larnaca which flooded in December 2014.
More than 300 houses were affected by floods in Larnaca and storms in Nicosia that flooded establishments in Kokkinotrimithia as well as more than 100 cars, while €787,000 compensation was given by the government.
The Greens’ MP Giorgos Perdikis warned that, due to the climate change, there is high risk of natural disasters as long as the environmental factor is not taken into consideration in urban development.
“A few hours’ rain leads to floods,” he said, and flood prevention projects will be inadequate in the future as climate change progresses.
Perdikis called for the creation of an under secretariat for the environment and climate change to help tackle these threats.