Cyprus Mail

Akamas residents finally agree a plan

By Constantinos Psillides

PRESERVING the natural beauty of the Akamas peninsula edged a step closer yesterday when residents and landowners of the region agreed to approve the EU Natura 2000 environmental protection programme proposal.

The proposal, now to be presented to the cabinet, will ensure the Akamas’ status as a natural reserve is accepted by residents who own land within its limits. A dispute over the area’s fate has been ongoing for 25 years.

Spokesman for the coordinating committee of Akamas communities and land owners Savvas Hadjiminas is to present the proposal approved by the landowners shortly. Hadjiminas met representatives from all villages and communities of the Akamas peninsula at Neo Chorio, Paphos district yesterday.

The proposal was drafted after remarks of both the agriculture and interior ministry were taken into consideration.

Among other things, the proposal suggests that home owners are compensated for their land within the planned natural reserve in three possible ways: expropriation, transferring building coefficients to other property outside the natural reserve boundaries or exchanging their land with state owned land.

The proposal also includes plans for “mild development” within the nature reserve.

Akamas was named a protected natural habitat by Natura 2000, a network of protected areas within the EU, to the displeasure of those residents who owned land within its limits.

In the last 25 years governments have repeatedly presented the land owners with expropriation proposals but the land owners have rejected them every time.

Their refusal to accept government proposals has led over the years to clashes with conservationist groups and the Green party. In more recent years, conservationists have quarrelled with government officials for accepting some of the ideas proposed by the residents.

Conservationist groups oppose any development within the natural reserve.

Land owners and local residents have long argued that it is unfair not to allow them to develop what has become prime real estate.

If the latest proposal is accepted by the cabinet it has to be submitted to the EU for approval.

Hadjiminas said that accepting the land owners’ proposal would be beneficial for everyone involved, including enviromentalists. “A lot of jobs willl open up for the locals while alternative tourism will help protect nature and its biodiversity. The Akamas project will ensure that nature is preserved and that residents prosper, along with solving a problem that has been troubling the region for 25 years,” he said.

Neo Chorio community leader Andreas Christodoulou said in his remarks that the residents fully understand the state’s dire financial situation, “but we are not asking for something irrational. What we want is ecologically sustainable growth of the region”.

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