By Bejay Browne
LOCAL OFFICIALS in Paphos have pledged to review the operation of a new beach bar operating at a turtle-laying beach, following a raft of complaints that the bar was endangering the nesting sites of endangered species.
Paphos district office officials visited the bar just above Asprokremmos beach and next to the Anassa hotel on Friday and will be followed at the beginning of the week by Polis mayor and head of the central beaches committee, Angelos Georgiou.
“The alleged breach of the Foreshore Protection Law in Asprokremmos should be examined by the concerned departments. The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the central beaches committee in the coming days,” said Georgiou. “We must comply with the law and there should not be any arbitrary interference at any point of the beach.”
Community leader of Neo Chorio, Andreas Christodoulou, told the Sunday Mail the facility has a licence to operate as both an organised beach, providing sunbeds and umbrellas, and as a café, selling soft drinks and snacks, but no alcohol. However, the Paphos District office said that although there is a permit for a designated bathing beach, there is no licence for a beach bar to operate there.
”It is up to us if we want to give permission for sun beds and umbrellas on our beaches in Neo Chorio. We’re not sure if we will give permission for next year, we will have to see,” said Christodoulou.
The sun beds and umbrellas on the beach sit alongside a number of turtle nests.
Earlier this week, the Green Party condemned the operation of the beach bar, arguing that at night, light and noise emitted from the bar would have a disastrous effect on the turtles.
Christodoulou insisted that the community board and the villagers all cared deeply about the turtles’ wellbeing and representatives from the fisheries department have covered the nests with protective cages.
For Andreas Constantinou, district secretary of the Paphos Greens, the issue of what licences may or may not have been granted is beside the point.
“It doesn’t matter about permission, there are some cases where things are wrong, we should judge whose benefit is more important. The operation at Asprokremmos should be stopped,” he said.
Turtle hatchlings are attracted to light and at around seven weeks after being laid, they emerge from the sand and make their way to the lightest part of the horizon – which is usually the sea. If they become disorientated and remain on the beach they will quickly succumb to the heat or may be eaten by predators.
In addition, nesting females are put off by bright lights, noise and movement on a beach. If they are disturbed during nesting, they will immediately head back to the sea.
The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and their breeding grounds have been protected by law since 1971.
They are both endangered species. Green turtles now nest on the west coast beaches of Lara and Toxeftra and on a few beaches on the north coast. Some Loggerheads also nest in these areas, but their main nesting beaches are in the Polis and Limni area in Chrysochou bay. The turtle breeding season in Cyprus gets underway in late May and finishes at the end of August
Most of the Akamas Peninsula, where Asprokremmos beach is located, is in the Natura 2000 network, an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. If beaches not within the Natura network are found to have turtle nests they are also protected.
For the Greens, the beach bar at Asprokremmos is not their only concern.
They said huge problems face the entire stretch of coastline from Asprokremmos beach up to the Baths of Aphrodite.
Constantinou said just a day after the party publicly condemned the beach bar, another beach close by and still within Neo Chorio boundaries was cleared of bamboo. Rocks were destroyed and sun beds put out on parts of the beach.
“Authorities are colluding in wanton destruction of an area of outstanding beauty,” he said.
Neo Chorio’s community leader said clearing the bamboo is a regular occurrence.
“Every year we send staff from the community board to clean the area. There is a natural spring were the bamboo is and it attracts mosquitoes. The bamboo will regrow in a few weeks,” said Christodoulou.
Constantinou said this was just an excuse.
“There is a service provided by the district office where they will spray for mosquitoes; no bamboo needed to be cut and they have also taken away some of the rocks. This is a massive problem. We can’t just create sandy beaches wherever we want.”
Polis mayor Angelos Georgiou said any intervention should be made very carefully but development should not be excluded altogether.
“We shouldn’t exclude human presence and the opportunity to enjoy some of these stunning beaches. If things are done using reasonable measures, it will actually help to maintain and enhance the natural environment,” he said.
But the Greens favour the approach adopted by Ayia Napa municipality which has introduced a public beach that does not offer sun beds and umbrellas.
“It’s easy to clean the sand and obviously no charge for beds or umbrellas. They have got it right,” said Constantinou.