By Bejay Browne
A LOCAL councillor has called for the Blue Flag status of Coral Bay Beach in Peyia to be withdrawn after wild bamboo reed beds surrounding a natural spring were burnt and bulldozed, apparently without a permit.
The row erupted after the area was cleared by Peyia municipality staff. Local councilor and Cyprus Green Party member Linda Leblanc was out of the country at the time the fire was set and the area bulldozed. She says she is horrified at the level of wanton destruction which has taken place in her absence.
“Around 400 metres of wild bamboo has been destroyed and the damage is extensive, practically every bit of green has gone.”
She said that the area was a natural habitat for wildlife such as birds, frogs, lizards and snakes
“I think we should call for the Blue Flag beach award to be withdrawn because of this environmental crime,” she said.
Some 57 beaches in Cyprus were given the prestigious Blue Flag last year, rewarding their compliance with a number of criteria on environmental management, water quality, and safety. Coral Bay was one of them.
The Blue Flag is a voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3850 beaches and marinas in 48 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean.
Leblanc said that although there have been complaints about mosquitoes in the area in the past, this was not an excuse for clearing the beach.
“This is not the way to react and there is now substantial damage to the protected coastal zone, which is against the law.”
The councilor believes that excuses have been made for clearing the brush to detract from the real reason for clearing the area; the municipality’s vested interests.
“People can now see the beach more easily and this is of benefit to the municipality as they are responsible for most of the sunbed and umbrella hire on the beach this year.”
This is a lucrative move, expected to bring in hundreds of thousands of euros in to the cash strapped municipality coffers this year.
However, not everyone shares Leblanc’s disgust. Another local councillor, who would only speak to the Cyprus Mail on condition of anonymity said: “I have seen the area and I think a good job has been done and it looks much better. This land was covered with bamboo which was a haven for snakes and rats. It was dirty and you couldn’t see the sea from the main road.”
He added: “It has greatly improved the view.”
Leblanc said: “The municipality is saying that they cleared the area, but they don’t know who set the fire; they also confirmed that they do not have a permit to do this.”
As well as bamboo on the beach being destroyed, part of the land which was cleared overlooks the popular bay and although privately owned, the actions went ahead without informing the owner, says Leblanc.
She noted that legally, land owners are responsible for clearing areas which may pose a fire hazard, or threaten health or safety once a year. They are given a period of time to comply and if they fail to do so, municipalities are permitted to clear the area and charge the landowner for this service.
“In this case, I understand that the land owners weren’t consulted,” she said.
The Paphos District Office said that they couldn’t comment on the incident or if a permit was issued for the actions at Coral Bay beach, as it isn’t in their remit and instead the responsibility of Peyia municipality.
Municipal staff remained tightlipped about the incident, saying only the mayor of Peyia would be able to comment on the matter, if he wished too. He was unavailable for comment.
Leblanc noted: “The bamboo will grow back in time, but these actions highlight a total lack of respect for the environment and the law.”