By Bejay Browne
TWO businessmen who have been granted a permit to oversee the first licensed beach in the Paphos area of Kissonerga are seeking to allay public fears that the beach is dangerous for swimmers.
Potima bay is a few kilometres further north of a deadly stretch of coastline, commonly known as Venus Beach, which has claimed 13 lives in the last decade. The latest victim drowned there just last weekend, leading to calls for further measures to ensure swimmers’ safety. A red flag and big notices in five languages warn swimmers of its strong currents and rip tides.
The mukhtar of Kissonerga, Giorgos Stylianou, said that Potima Bay should not be confused with the other beach.
“The safety of the area for swimmers was foremost in our minds. Many locals were told not to swim at Potima when they were growing up, but a recent study by experts found that it is suitable for swimming,” he said.
Last year the area was classified as a recognised bathing beach, following a study which was submitted to the government by the Paphos district office on behalf of Kissonerga community council.
Maria Aristodemou of the Paphos district office explained that officials examined all the relevant studies and also visited the site to make further investigations.
“The district officer decided that the area is as safe as any other beach in Cyprus to swim and approved the application,” she said.
All of the relevant paperwork was then sent to the ministry of communication and works in Nicosia which approved and granted the necessary permits.
“The currents, swell, coastline and winds were all studied to see if it could be a proper organised beach. It was found that it could be a suitable community beach,” said Stylianou. “We insisted on a lifeguard as a means of rescue and to ensure the safety of the swimmers.”
But a number of officials and local residents still have concerns about the safety of the waters for bathers. Among them is Green party member and Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc who has lived in Paphos for 25 years.
“My concern is for public safety and I really hope that there are no problems here. I’m especially concerned for tourists visiting the island who may be unaware of the need to take more care bathing here. They will see an organised beach and assume it’s safe.”
Although a lifeguard is now in place at Potima Bay, Leblanc questioned what will happen outside lifeguard’s working hours. Currently, the standard summer working hours are from 11am to 5.30pm off season and 11am to 6.30pm during the high season of July, August and September.
Businessmen Nikos Konikkos, who is also head of Peyia municipality beaches committee, and Andreas Antoniou have teamed up for the project which has cost them around 200,0000 euros. They both say they wouldn’t have invested in the project if the sea wasn’t safe to bathe.
Konikkos who owns four other businesses in the area said: “As locals we know this beach well and as it’s an open bay, it can be rough in winter and sometimes in spring or autumn. At other times it’s very calm. There are only a few days every now and then, like every beach, where the waters are choppy. The problems lie further up the coastline.”
Antoniou said that, as an extra precaution, all of the guests at the beach will be informed about the phenomena and given advice about what to do if they get into trouble.
“We are printing some leaflets which will be placed on all of the sun beds and will tell people how to react; we will give advice to swimmers. Obviously, there will also be a lifeguard in place,” he said.
Red flags will also be flown at times when swimming is deemed unsafe. The local authorities will also replace two signs highlighting possible dangers.
“When you enter the sea here, there is a sharp drop and it quickly becomes quite deep, but I want to stress that no-one has ever drowned here, unlike some other beaches in Paphos,” said Antoniou.
Stylianou said that the work at the beach is part of a wider improvement and development plan for Kissonerga. He said that when the present council took over office they realised the village was facing serious financial problems.
Konikkos and Antoniou say they see their latest business as a long term investment. They have signed a three year rolling contract to rent the space at a cost of 41,000 euros a year, and put down a 10,000 euro guarantee.
According to Leblanc, two further public beaches in Kissonerga have been approved; close to the Cynthiana Hotel and the Queens Bay hotel.
“There are sometimes large waves here, like many other beaches, but it’s generally not dangerous. Obviously there will be a few days – as with all beaches – when bathers shouldn’t go in the water,” Stylianou said.
There are currently 80 sun beds on the beach. This number will increase to 120 as the season continues. A small café will serve light lunches and dinners and the beach will operate from 8am- midnight on a daily basis throughout the summer. The pair has already received a number of event requests, including a wedding booking in September.