Cyprus Mail

Larnaca Avenue residents fight to save trees

Trees on Larnaca Avenue marked with an X

Residents of Nicosia’s Larnaca Avenue are anxious to save the century-old trees that have been slated for the chop part of the re-development of the road.

The cutting down of the Cypress trees is part of the government plan to expand the Larnaca, Aglandja and Famagusta Avenues from two to four lanes.

Savvas Theodoulou, a member of the Aglandja struggle committee, told the Cyprus Mail that despite the group’s continuous efforts to avert the cutting down of the trees, as of last week, crews had marked with an X trees that have stood for a century but are to go.

“Our struggle dates back several years, but now that the resources have been secured from EU funds, contracts were signed and they will start cutting down the trees,” Theodoulou said.

He said that the group has tried to challenge the project saying it has a lot of  irregularities. Members have sent hundreds of letters to everyone who could help, held a great number of meetings with MPs, political parties, government services, and municipal councillors but to no avail.

“With exception of the Green Party, everyone else sympathised with our goal, but in the end they backed the project,” Theodoulou said. “The trees are so big it takes two people to hug their trunks. I don’t know what else we can do. Even if we chain ourselves on the trees, this will only delay their cutting”.

Efi Xanthou of the Green Party said that they were trying to stall the whole process by filing an appeal to the Nicosia district court asking for the suspension of the private land acquisition by the government. The hearing is set for next week.

“The court case will take around two to three years and in that time we hope to convince the government not to proceed with the specific project,” Xanthou told the Cyprus Mail.

She said that residents agree with the re-development of the three avenues, but not with expanding them by two more lanes.

As regards the Cypress trees, Xanthou said they were planted by the British colonialists when they constructed Larnaca Avenue, which stretches all the way to Larnaca, hence the name.

“If one follows the specific street all the way to Larnaca (today part of it is in the buffer zone), they will instantly recognise the same scenery as the trees are planted all along the road,” Xanthou said.

She added that the government justified the expansion of the three avenues to four lanes each, by saying that the two additional lanes would be bus lanes.

“On the Larnaca and Famagusta Avenues, buses run every half hour during peak hours and every hour after that, while no buses run through Aglandja Avenue,” she said.

She added that concerning the cutting down of trees, residents patrol Larnaca Avenue in a bid to alert the Green party at any time in case they see someone attempting to cut down the trees. “They will find us against them,” Xanthou said.

Zacharias Evangelou, a resident of the area, said that they were anxious not to see the trees go.

“They are a characteristic feature of our area, we grew up with these trees around us” Evangelou said. He added that the residents would like to see the trees being incorporated in the whole project, instead of being cut down.

There are voices however, in favour of cutting down the trees for security reasons.

“Those trees were planted in a different era when the majority of people used buggies.  Today they pose a danger, as drivers who might lose control of their cars for whatever reason, will crash on the trees and even lose their lives. They could very well plant other trees further back,” Christos Ioannou, said.

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