By Bejay Browne
AUTHORITIES plan to seek millions in EU funding to try and save two of the island’s most popular tourist spots whose beaches completely disappeared over a two-day period in December.
Tourism in the area, which many businesses and locals rely to earn a living, is now in jeopardy for the 2014 summer season if something cannot be done.
Scenes at the hugely popular Polis campsite – one of the two affected beaches- are shocking. Some 40 metres of sandy beach have literally been sliced away, leaving only a cliff-type ledge leading to the sea.
In nearby Latsi café beachside seating areas are teetering on the brink of a sandy ledge close to the water, which used to be 40 metres away before the mystery erosion. In both cases there is no longer a beach.
Many put the catastrophe down to a 6.2 earthquake on December 28 off the coast of Turkey, which was strongly felt in Cyprus, particularly north of Paphos.
Locals have been visiting the area in their dozens after hearing of reports of the devastation at the Polis campsite, which attracts thousands of visitors, local and foreign, every year.
What’s left of the blue-flagged beach now only stretches from the seaside café to the edge of the larger of two lifeguard towers – the second lookout tower has disappeared altogether. The rest of the beach- about 40 metres according to the Polis Mayor Angelos Georgiou, has vanished into the sea.
Although officials say erosion of the coastline has been a recognised problem in the area for a number of years, the speed and devastation which has occurred is hard to comprehend.
The head of the governments public works departments’ coastal engineers Stelios Zevros, visited the area on. He spoke to the Sunday Mail shortly afterwards.
“There has been a problem with coastal erosion here for some time, but nothing to this extent. This is why there is a master plan in place to construct 14 breakwaters to protect the coastline.”
So far, only four of the 14 have been erected in the sea by Latsi port. Phase one was completed in 2010 and Zevros said phase two, which will run from the last breaker up to the campsite at Polis, should have commenced immediately afterwards.
“The crisis meant that funds weren’t available for this and now it will be very difficult to undertake. We are trying to garner the funds from the European Union. We need about €5 million. Without this help we will be unable to go ahead with the plans in the foreseeable future.”
Zevros added that a team of coastal engineers would now carry out investigations and measurements to find out what exactly is happening in the area.
“It is very surprising that such severe erosion took place in such a short amount of time, in particular at the beach in Latsi, where there had been little indication of this previously.”
He couldn’t confirm for sure that it was caused by the recent earthquake.
“As there isn’t any data available yet, I can’t say if the earthquake caused this reaction; further investigation is needed. The master plan to construct the further breakers is for the east side of the area, perhaps some softer measures will be taken for the west side, (Latsi).”
Mayor Georgiou said: “People started to contact me at around the same time as the earthquake, that we had this problem. We are hoping for suggestions from the authorities to ensure we can protect the beach and make it usable for the new season.”
Other parts of the coastline have also been damaged, although not to the same extent.
Georgiou added: “We had a problem with erosion at one of the municipality’s beaches before they started the wave breakers, but nothing like this.”
The mayor said the devastation could have been caused because the coastal protection project wasn’t completed, adding that swift measures must be taken to finish the project and protect the area.
“It took two days for the beaches to vanish; I immediately appealed to the relevant government officials for help,” he said.
“I am also waiting to be granted a licence… I hope in one or two months, to go ahead with the upgrading plans for the campsite, now we can’t do anything. We have to save the beach.”
Shocked residents from all over the Paphos district are visiting the two beaches on a daily basis.
Paul and Laurie Burwood have lived in Polis for the last eight years and say in that time, nothing like this has happened. They also believe the catastrophe is the effect of the recent earthquake.
Laurie said: “We felt the earthquake, lights were swinging and there was a huge roar. This is the first time we’ve come to look at the campsite beach, we noticed problems at the other beach in Latsi The campsite beach is one of the most frequented in the summer, we’ve had parties on the beach here, its fantastic and now its just gone.”
Husband Paul added: “I believe that the effects caused by the earthquake have been pushed this way as the wave breakers protected the area further along. It’s terrible and I don’t know how they are going to re install the beach. They need to put the breakwaters in this end.”
Kate and Tony Jones, from Anavargos village in Paphos also visited the Polis campsite beach, as they often use it in the summer.
The couple said: “We felt a tremor in Anavargos; everything is pointing that the quake caused this. We’ve never seen anything like it before; this was a lovely place to come; everyone came here.”
The couple questioned who would pay for repair work or necessary preventative measures, as there ‘isn’t any money anywhere in Cyprus’.
Tony noted: “Looking after the environment is a priority though and we need to protect the coast.”