Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides reassured residents of Kalo Horio on Saturday that the firing range in their area would close down if it was proven that it posed risks to their health.
State broadcaster CyBC reported that Fokaides, who met with members of Larnaca’s Kalo Horio community council said that the National Guard’s main firing range located in their area would close down in 15 months’ time depending on the findings of an environmental study on its impact on their health. If it is found that it is harmful, it would close down, he said.
The study was also a demand of local communities who want the firing range closed, fearing for their safety and health. Residents had called for a comprehensive study into the effects the shells had on the air, the soil, and the water.
Kalo Horio’s outgoing community leader Kyriacos Antzoulis had said on Monday that the firing range was located some 500 metres from a residential area, and that the defence ministry carried out exercises on a daily basis, including at night-time, except weekends.
During their meeting, Fokaides presented local residents his ministry’s plans concerning the firing range, which include an environmental study which will be completed in 15 months, clearing the range of unexploded ordnance and limiting the use of the range to a minimum.
The defence ministry has also prepared a scheme providing for compensatory measures for the community, which include compensation for repairs of the damage sustained by the blast of explosions on the walls of the community’s houses.
Residents staged two demonstrations earlier in the month demanding the closure of the range.
On Monday, residents had blocked the entrance to the range with their cars, forcing a peaceful standoff with the military and police. They withdrew after Fokaides ordered the exercise stopped and agreed to meet with them to discuss their demands.
The range is used by the army for various exercises, including heavy weapons live fire. There have been incidents of shells straying from target and ending up close to communities. Unexploded ordnance found in villages surrounding the area is not unusual.
Two letters had been sent, one to the defence minister and one to parliament, but no reply had been received by November 21, the deadline the residents had set.