By Angelos Anastasiou
COMMUNITIES near Vassilikos continue to oppose government plans to build an energy complex in the area, despite its efforts to assuage their concerns over health and safety hazards by engaging in public consultations.
The government plans to develop the 25 square kilometre industrial area around the Mari village on the island’s southern coast – already host to the electricity authority’s largest power plant, a cement-producing factory and two oil tank-farms owned by private companies – culminated in the development of a Master Plan that calls for the creation of a natural-gas liquefaction terminal at the site.
The Master Plan also incorporates the government’s decisions to authorise the expansion of the tank-farms and the relocation of Cyprus’s strategic oil reserves to Vassilikos.
The plan raised major environmental and safety concerns from area residents who claim to have not been included in the decision-making process, despite the government designating the end of February as the deadline for the consultation period.
Following an initial meeting in Skarinou village three weeks ago, the government and the eight affected communities gathered on Wednesday night at the Zygi community council office to resume discussions, during which the Master Plan for the complex was presented by Anna Karamondani on behalf of ALA Planning Partnership – the consultancy that prepared the study.
Karamondani clarified that relocating Mari residents – one of the Master Plan’s scenarios – would only be required “if sufficient amounts of rich gas reserves are available.”
Representing the energy ministry at the meeting was Yiannis Economides, who argued that the ministry is wrongly accused for “lack of transparency and evading public consultation”, noting that “the strategic environmental assessment [to be prepared] will include all three variables, namely the health and safety of residents, impact to the environment, and growth and prosperity of the wider area’s residents.”
“There is a need to disperse electricity-producing units, as well as emissions, which was not considered in preparing the Master Plan as it was not part of the mandate,” Economides said.
The President of the Zygi community council Michalis Papademetriou said that he will not allow any development to the east of the Vassilikos port, whether onshore or offshore.
“We reject any mandate that allows methane and ammonia factories to be built in the area, as it is both improper and adds to current burdens,” Papademetriou said.
Lefteris Sozou, president of the Health and Safety Protection Group for the Kalavassos area, said that the three existing large factories are proof of “government inadequacy”, as they contravene both their building permits and their operational frameworks. He further reported violations in location selection, as “the Master Plan neither lists, nor does it qualify the reasons for the selection of the area.”
According to the group’s announcement, Economides acknowledged the arbitrary location selection, noting that “perhaps the Moni area would be better suited.”
Psematismenos community council president Christodoulos Christodoulou said the meeting “should have taken the direction of providing answers on the ministry’s behalf”, and considered the process merely as a repeat, instead of a constructive continuation, of the Skarinou meeting from three weeks ago.
“We strongly demand community participation in the decision-making body with veto powers”, he said.
Kalavassos community council president Lefteris Foka spoke of “mockery”, in reference to the announcement of “construction permits that were subsequently amended without regard to environmental studies.”
Pampos Charalambous, president of Pentakomo community council, described the licensing process as a “sham” and the amendment of permits as the means to defraud communities out of the original agreements.
“We consider today’s meeting to be a pointless formality that achieves nothing but inconveniencing those present,” Charalambous said.
The communities also claimed that the urban planning study for the Vassilikos complex does not provide for accommodation facilities for employees, a fire station and an industry training centre.