By George Psyllides
THE aim of the Akamas management plan is the sustainable development of the area and protection of the environment, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis said on Wednesday, as the government tries to tackle the decades-old problem over its future.
“The agriculture ministry’s objective is to highlight the area’s natural beauty through the Akamas management plan, to develop the area in a sustainable way so that we attract visitors,” the minister said, adding that the plan should also improve the quality of life for those who live there.
Kouyialis presented the government’s plan for the area before the House environment committee.
The presentation included the management plan for the area inside the Natura 2000 network and projects that should be carried out outside to revitalise the nine communities affected.
Natura 2000 is the centrepiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy. It is an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive whose aim is to assure the long-term survival of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.
The issue of Akamas has long been a sore point between the government, local residents, landowners, property developers and environmentalists.
Landowners and local residents have long argued that it is unfair not to allow them to develop what has become prime real estate, while conservationists counter that Akamas is one of the last truly beautiful nature spots in the government-controlled areas, which is already under threat by the gradual encroachment of development, with the tolerance of the authorities.
Kouyialis said there were many owners whose properties had been ‘trapped’ because they were inside the Natura 2000 network.
“I have explained that it does not mean economic and other activities inside that area could not take place, it does not mean that mild development is prohibited,” he said.
He said the view that has prevailed was that any areas inside the Natura 2000 network meant disaster for the owners.
“This culture must change and I consider it a success that Cyprus has a large percentage of land inside the Natura 2000 network, something that means high biodiversity, high environmental value, and there is no way these properties would lose their value,” he said.
He said it was up to the government and the other parties involved to find a solution that would be fair for the residents, develop the area, and most importantly protect the environment.
Green Party chairman Giorgos Perdikis said the main concern was not to have decisions that favoured certain “big interests” in the area and hurt the environment.
The peninsula must be protected effectively and opportunity should be given to the communities to have development within their boundaries and not on the coast. Coastal development would mean the destruction of the communities, he said.