By Constantinos Psillides
RESIDENTS of Aglantzia are up in arms after the municipal council green-lighted road works that will pave through a designated green area which they fear is the first step of a larger project that will go through the Athalassa national park.
The project aims at cutting trees and paving a road connecting Omirou avenue with the Forestry Department, better known as “Fitorio street”, opening up a two-lane road to the Nicosia General hospital and the Mall of Cyprus.
“We are strongly against the extension of Academias Avenue cutting through any of the two adjacent national parks, either now or in the future. We are in favour of the environment and public welfare and not of the interests of big commercial developments. We demand that the municipality of Aglantzia rejects the Town Planning and Housing Department’s intentions once and for all”, says an online petition http://tinyurl.com/lnulnox that has already reached 1,500 signatories, while 543 more signed a similar petition on a different website.
Aglantzia mayor Costas Kortas denies any wrongdoing and said that the municipality needs this project.
“This road will secure quick access to the General hospital for all Aglantzia residents. Currently, people have to go all the way around to reach the hospital, which of course means more fuel consumption and more gas emissions,”
Kortas told the Cyprus Mail, explaining that the need to build the road arose after the former Higher Technological Institute closed down and drive throughs are not possible after the campus was given to the Franco-Cypriot School.
The mayor said that he is “aware that there are those who are against it, but you should also know that there thousands that stand behind it.” Kortas said that if the municipal council’s terms are not met by the Communications and Works ministry then he will rescind his approval.
“We demanded of the ministry to include a term in the agreement that the Omirou–Fitorio road will be single carriage way with a bus and bike lane. Trucks will be banned,” he said.
“We know that some trees will be cut. It is inevitable and we will plant many more to compensate for the loss,” he said.
“Stop the trucks from using the road? And how will he do that? Keep watch at the traffic lights day and night? That road will be the quickest route from the SOPAZ industrial area and rest assured that people will go for the easy way,” said Stelios Ioannou, one those opposing the project.
Ioannou and other members of the ATI/RIK committee that drafted the petition believe that diverting traffic through the park and to the heart of Aglantzia will be detrimental to the health of the residents and those who visit the park.
“An estimated 5,000 vehicles will be diverted daily to the Aglantzia streets. Can you imagine the noise and pollution that we will have to endure?”
Unmoved by the mayor’s pledges, the group believes that the road cutting through the park it’s just part of a much bigger plan.
“The ministry has been trying to secure the Aglantzia municipality approval on the road since 1990 and we have fought back since 1992. Their ultimate goal is to connect the SOPAZ industrial area to the Mall of Cyprus and open the way for trucks, trailers and heavy traffic,” argued Ioannou.