HOW appropriate that on the day deputies from the House environment committee visited Peyia to inspect the developments in the sea caves area, the Council of Ministers approved a bill proposal for the development of the mountain areas. When we hear the authorities speak about development we can only think the worst – developers would be let loose on the unspoilt mountain areas and destroy them in order to build hotels and holiday homes, just as they are doing at the sea caves.
The only safeguard that this would not be the case, at least for now, is that demand for holiday homes in the mountains is not high. But this might change if the government goes ahead with its plan. Adopting a comprehensive development policy for the mountain areas of Cyprus was imperative, decided the cabinet, because the cost of abandoning them was high in social economic and environmental terms. The formulation of the ‘Strategic development of Troodos mountain communities’ by the University of Thessaly was at an advanced stage.
The bill will have to be discussed and approved by the legislature before it is given flesh and bones. For now, it consists of legalese and technocratic mumbo-jumbo such as “mechanism of horizontal co-ordination”, the “balancing of the link between protection and utilisation of natural resources” and the “programming of developmental planning and project of the involved parties”. It also envisages the establishment of a steering committee, ministerial committee, technical committees as well as a co-ordination unit to ensure the implementation of all the policies.
According to the bill proposal the government’s primary concern is to attract people back to the mountain villages which have gradually been depopulated, primarily because of the lack of jobs. It is not clear how the new strategy would reverse this trend, but it is to be hoped it will not involve big construction projects like the one planned in Pera Pedi, which envisaged stripping a mountainside of its trees. This possibility cannot be ruled out considering the proposal mentions more road-building, as if this were the reason the mountain villages were depopulated. For all governments, new roads are the imaginative answer to all problems, even if these benefit contractors more than the communities they are intended to serve.
This is why it is difficult to give any government the benefit of the doubt. It was another government that allowed the rampant development in the sea caves area, but it would be no surprise if this government’s comprehensive development policy for the mountain areas has similar results.
We hope we are wrong.