By Bejay Browne
A GROUP of volunteers will carry out a clean-up of the Akamas on Saturday and are looking for more volunteers to join the effort.
The Akamas Clean-up Team (ACT), was formed by Neo Chorio residents, retirees Keith and Wendy Watkins in 2012. The volunteers meet up every couple of months to clean up various areas of the nature reserve.
Keith told the Cyprus Mail that their aim is to keep Akamas rubbish free, but they are fighting an uphill battle, he said.
“Saturday’s clean-up will be our 17th event and usually the majority of rubbish which we collect is due to flotsam and jetsam being deposited on the shore by the prevailing currents, tides, winds and storms; however some is left by visitors to the area.”
The Akamas peninsula is an area of outstanding natural beauty, an engendered turtle breeding ground and part of the Natura 2000 project. However, some of the area is an illegal dumping ground for rubbish, such as unwanted household items including mattresses, fridges, sofas and irons.
According to Peyia councillor Linda Leblanc, her municipality is responsible for the Akamas area up to the Avakas gorge, and no official cleaning programmes are in place, despite numerous attempts.
“The problem is that the municipality doesn’t understand the problem, they don’t see it (the rubbish) as they have become used to it.”
When complaints come in, she said, areas are cleaned, but there is a general lack of adequate planning.
“They are always responding to the latest complaint, instead of implementing a proper programme to keep the entire area, including the Akamas, clean and tidy.”
The councillor said that walking barefoot on the public beaches can be hazardous, as all sorts of rubbish, including hypodermic syringes and needles, are sometimes found.
Watkins noted that a number of these were cleared during the last volunteer event.
“Syringes and needles, a medical intravenous infusion bag and injectable medicine bottles were found and cleared, along with plastic bottles and containers, plastic toys, shoes, sandals, tin cans, aerosol canisters, bottle tops, glass bottles, light bulbs and cardboard cartons. We also removed polystyrene pieces, rope, string, many lumps of tar, wood, alkathene pipes, bones, fishing nets, packs of cigarettes and a broken up television set,” he said.
Watkins noted that one solution could see the government paying unemployed people to clear the area, whilst they were looking for work. “They could employ teams of people to clear up the area by hand and this is what it really needs.”
So far, ACT Volunteers have removed more than eight tonnes of rubbish from the Akamas peninsula – 991 bags in total. This doesn’t include other large objects and vast quantities of rubbish which is too cumbersome or heavy to fit into the bags.
During the last clean-up in June, 12 volunteers collected a total of 65 large bags of rubbish and numerous other large objects.
Watkins said that the clean-up is aided by Papantoniou’s supermarket in Polis Chrysochous, which donates the 100 litre green rubbish bags, and the Forestry Department at Drouseia, which organises the proper disposal of rubbish that volunteers collect. Around 15 volunteers turn up for each event, and organisers would like to encourage more.
Watkins advised those wishing to help on Saturday to wear wide brimmed hats and appropriate clothing, as well as sunglasses and bring lots of drinking water. A comprehensive list of advice is available on ACT’s Facebook page.
The rubbish due to be cleared on Saturday includes lumps of tar on the high water line, much of which has been driven over by vehicles and squashed with the smaller items of rubbish such as bottle tops.
“This will have to be shovelled up and put in the rubbish bags as it will be impossible to pick up by hand,” he said.
The next clean-up will take place on Saturday, August 8, from 9am to 1pm. Watkins said ACT aim to improve a coastal area north of Geronissos Point, on the western Akamas peninsula between Koppos islet and Kannoudia islet, about 16 km north of the Avakas Gorge.
To volunteer, call Keith Watkins on 96 516 485 or email: [email protected]
The Facebook community page is at www.facebook.com/AkamasCleanupTeam