By George Psyllides
CONSERVATIONISTS warned on Friday that a recent Supreme court decision that excluded an environmentally important area from a protected network did not affect its status as far as the European Union was concerned and that the cost for the lack of protection would ultimately be paid by taxpayers.
The Polis-Yialia area is the most important beach in Cyprus for the Caretta caretta turtles, which is where they lay their eggs.
The application to the Supreme court was filed by Cyprus Limni Resorts and Golfcourses PLC, a member of the Shacolas Group, which plans to build two golf courses, a luxury hotel, villas and residential units in the area.
The decision to exclude the area from the Natura 2000 network was based on technicalities and not on the scientific data, said the conservation group Terra Cypria, adding that it did not overturn its inclusion in the European Natura 2000 Network.
“This area, along with 61 other areas in Cyprus proposed for inclusion in the network, has been included in the European Natura 2000 list and the state’s obligations concerning its protection and management are still in place,” Terra Cypria said.
The Supreme court’s decision for technical reasons does not affect the European Comission, which thinks that the area requires the protection and management afforded to all Natura 2000 areas.
On top of that, Cyprus has received a warning letter from the Commission over the unsatisfactory protection provided in the area where the turtles lay their eggs because of the planned development next to the beach.
“Initial expert recommendations to define a development-free 475-metre zone were ignored,” Terra Cypria said.
The experts even accepted the golf courses to encroach, since they would not be used at night, but not the residential developments.
“There was no objection to the entire development, but to the creation of light and noise pollution on the beach that would prevent spawning and disorient newborn turtles,” Terra Cypria said.
The organisation warned that if measures were not taken immediately to restore the 475-metre zone, Cyprus risked being fined by the European Commission, a cost ultimately footed by taxpayers.
“We hope that the cancellation will be corrected by the Agriculture minister who must redefine the area immediately,” Terra Cypria said.