By Bejay Browne
TENSIONS are running high in Paphos after a number of trees were felled as part of ongoing works to build the new Kings Avenue Mall.
Andreas Constantinou, the Paphos district secretary for the Green Party said the trees were valuable and shouldn’t have been cut, a claim refuted by a spokesman for the new Mall which had a licence from the forestry department to cut the trees.
Constantinou said the Greens had been assured that nothing would be done until the matter was discussed by the two parties last Saturday.
“They forgot to meet us but they remembered to cut the trees,” he said.
“At least 20 beautiful old trees have been destroyed. Some of these trees were protected and some very large and old,” said Constantinou who had gone to the area on Monday night on hearing that the trees were being felled.
He also claimed he was threatened by workers at the site. “They said they would break my camera and my neck if I didn’t leave.”
“We both called the police at the same time. They told police I had damaged machinery which isn’t true. I also called some other Green Party members to join me in a peaceful demonstration.”
A spokesman for the new multi-million euro Mall which is due to open on November 21 said: “I don’t understand this kind of reaction and the Green Party should have the correct facts, which they did not.
These trees were not indigenous to Cyprus and they were ugly. We are in the process of planting hundreds of beautiful new plants and shrubs as well as about 200 trees- which will be indigenous to Cyprus.”
The spokesman said the company the greens should try and see the bigger picture.
“We are creating hundreds of jobs during the construction process and we will employ 1,000 more people when we are open,” he said, adding that the Green Party was overreacting over a small number of trees.
Constantinou said that the workers produced their permission to cut the trees after about half an hour. “By the time the forestry officer arrived, there were no trees left,” he said.
He added that the party would lodge a formal complaint with the government against the forestry department, and with the relevant authorities in Europe. “We don’t trust the authorities here any more and we seem to just cover everything in concrete.”
But the forestry department’s divisional officer for Paphos, Michalis Makris, who approved the application to fell the trees, confirmed that 13 trees were cut and not 20 as claimed- and noted they were not indigenous to Cyprus and were “invasive” by nature.
“A condition for approval was that the owners of the trees would replace the trees with 30 more which are indigenous to Cyprus such as carobs, olives, and oaks and so on,” he said.
“The forestry department is trying to stop the felling of trees but by law we cannot refuse a licence unless the trees are shown to be valuable.”