By Elias Hazou
LOCAL COMMUNITIES in the Vassilikos area say plans to build an energy centre there are tantamount to suicide and need to be put on the backburner.
The eight affected communities called on Monday for an environmental impact assessment as well as for a cost-benefit analysis before the project goes any further.
The master plan for the sprawling energy centre provides for a liquefied natural gas terminal, fuel storage tanks, a privately owned electricity station and other industrial facilities including the EAC’s existing power station – all compacted within a contiguous area of 25 square kilometres.
Locals say that concentrating all these facilities side by side is a recipe for disaster. They cite as an example the July 2011 explosion at the nearby Mari naval base, which killed 13, took out the Vassilikos power station and caused hundreds of millions in damage.
They also warn of pollution of the local water supply from the heavy industry. The water is used for agriculture.
Following a gathering held last Friday, the communities issued a joint resolution on Monday calling for a strategic development plan coupled with an environmental impact assessment for each of the planned installations.
Authorities have pledged to commission such a strategic development plan, but some of the locals are skeptical and say these studies should have been carried out before the master plan was drafted.
“They put the cart before the horse,” said Pantelis Metaxas, an ecological activist brought in to consult the communities.
Because the submitted master plan creates a fait accompli, there is valid concern that the subsequent environmental impact studies might gloss over the issue, Metaxas told the Cyprus Mail.
The master plan was carried out by a private consultancy for Noble Energy on behalf of the ministry of energy and commerce. It’s understood that Noble Energy paid for the master plan.
The area in question extends from Mari naval base, near Governor’s Beach, up to the village of Zygi. The village of Mari itself is inside the designated development area.
The logical conclusion is that the entire village of Mari would have to be relocated, said Metaxas.
Although the public consultation period has expired (February 7), locals say that in reality no such consultation took place. Instead, they were merely presented the master plan a few weeks before that deadline.
In the coming weeks, officials from the energy ministry and interior ministry will be meeting local community leaders. But in yet another worrying signal, the officials will see the community leaders individually, not collectively.
“This kind of setup removes peer pressure from the mukhtars,” said Metaxas in a loaded comment.