By Annette Chrysostomou
Environmentalists on Tuesday slammed the authorities for doing nothing about the sorry state of affairs at Lara beach, an important turtle nesting site.
Visitors have complained that the area is full of litter and is also being used for beach parties.
Lara beach in the Akamas Peninsula is a turtle conservation station and nesting site.
Breeding in Cyprus lasts until the end of August, and nesting females are put off by noise, movement and light.
Both the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) which breed at Lara beach are threatened by extinction in the Mediterranean and have been protected species since 1971.
“The use of the beach is of course allowed but there is no adequate monitoring. There are no night guards, resulting in an unscrupulous use of the beach for beach parties. Generally there is no infrastructure for monitoring, protecting, and promoting a unique beautiful area of our island and a habitat of global significance,” a party statement said.
The party proposed the employment of young area residents as monitors. This would open jobs and involve the local community in protecting the habitat.
“It will actively demonstrate that protecting nature is the real sustainable development in the region, simultaneously producing direct benefits for residents.” This has been done in the past both in Cyprus and in other countries.
Instead, the Greens claimed, the authorities take no such steps but continue to support the powerful interests of those who envision to transform the Akamas into a tourist resort like Ayia Napa.
The community board of Inia has in the past attempted to get permission to place umbrellas and sun beds on the beach but were refused by the Paphos district office. The Fisheries Law prohibits sun-beds, umbrellas, caravans and tents from being erected in the area.
According to the Green party, the Inia local council has no incentive to clean the beach as it does not get any revenue from doing so. Greens spokeswoman Evi Xanthou told the Cyprus Mail, even if they tried, Inia was a small village which did not have the financial resources to clean up this vast area, in which case, Xanthou said the local council and the district office in Paphos, responsible for the surrounding villages, should work together.
She said garbage was also being dumped by passing ships. The west coast is particularly vulnerable because of the direction of the wind, she said. The central government is in charge of checking ships, so they in turn need to get involved, Xanthou added.
All these authorities should then ideally cooperate with local environmentalists, who often clean the beaches but also need support, she said.
Last year, during a one-day clean up in August, volunteers collected 235 plastic bottles, 307 plastic cups, 49 fishing nets and equipment, 44 lighters, 389 small plastic pieces and 128 cans in and around Lara. Plastic bags, cigarette butts, food wrappers, pieces of foam material, glass bottles and pieces of broken glass were also found and collected.
Inia community leader Yiangos Tsirikos told the Cyprus Mail he sends a truck twice a week to collect the rubbish from Lara beach garbage cans. “This costs the community €10.000 a year,” he said, adding that the community pays for this without help “not from the tourists and not from the government”, he said. Tsirikos said there was no money to clean the whole beach and that he would be forced to stop even sending the truck to empty the bins if he doesn’t receive some kind of subsidy from government. In an effort to raise some money, he added, the council was planning to open a turtle museum in the village as they are not allowed to build close to the beach.
The Green party called on the authorities to put their games aside and roll out measures to improve the cleanliness of the beach and protect the habitat of the turtles. They also said that a final solution was also necessary regarding the status of the Akamas.
The peninsula is under the Natura 2000 project, which protects areas of outstanding beauty. However, environmentalists, local residents and tourists have claimed for years that this was not good enough.
Akamas has long been a sore point among governments, property developers and environmentalists.
Recently the government has come under increased pressure to develop the land due to the financial crisis, as land owners argue that the area should be used to raise capital.