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Destroying seaside heritage in the north

On Saturday March 19, 2016 a group of Kyrenians and friends in an effort to exercise our religious duties and to reconnect with our Turkish Cypriot Kyrenian compatriots visited the chapel and the cave of Ayios Phanourios on the coast of the village of Ayios Georgios (Karaoglanoglu).

Phanourios minutus (minor) is also the name of the extinct Cypriot pygmy hippopotamus named after the site where the chapel was built into the fossiliferous rocks which are very rich in bone content.

According to tradition, villagers would go there to collect some of these hippopotamus bones which they believed to be holy and the petrified remains of Saint Phanourios’ horse. The collected bones were ground into a powder with medicinal powers.

It is on this exact location that we observed a severe environmental infringement. Just 150 metres from the chapel of Ayios Phanourios, unknown developers are completely destroying the environment by covering up a huge area with earth-filling and other material. This process has reached the sea.

All across Europe, the European Union and in Turkey, the foreshore protection legislation, as well as ICOZOM (Integrated Coastal Zone Management) strictly protect the coastline and in theory prohibit and by legislature, restrict town planning practices, high buildings and in some cases any development whatsoever, at distances starting from 100 yards (91.4 metres) from the uppermost water tide mark to sometimes a kilometre inshore or even more.

It is extremely unfair to allow this uncontrollable situation to escalate taking advantage of the current situation in the north part of Cyprus.

A similar case of destruction is taking place 600 metres to the east of the chapel, at a historical site known as the Severis olive-residue factory which was erected around 1940 and has a substantial socioeconomic history.

The Greek Cypriot Kyrenians join our voice with the voice of our European Turkish Cypriot compatriots to demand Turkey and its subordinate authorities to stop or at least effectively apply EU regulations and public hearing procedures in every single project of this nature.

A considerable number of people living in the occupied areas as well as certain companies are still encouraged by provisions of the rejected Annan Plan and are hastily “investing” their money by causing destruction of trespassed private Greek Cypriot property (or Turkish Cypriot property in the free part of the island).

They hope that by complicating matters through development on stolen property, property reinstatement to the legal owners and their heirs will be an impossibility and therefore trespassers will be able to keep the stolen property.

Both the European Union and the United Nations must be vigilant and stop turning a blind eye to this conspicuous illegal practice. The thousands of trespassers or illegal users must clearly be warned that all additional buildings and any construction work of any nature not only shall not be taken into consideration – in case of a settlement. On the contrary, huge compensation may be demanded from anyone who is building on or developing trespassed land without the written consent of the legal owners or/and their heirs.

Glafkos Cariolou, mayor of Kyrenia in exile.

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