The mayor of Polis Chrysochous hit back at environmentalist groups on Thursday, accusing them of staging the brouhaha over a wedding beach party at the Anassa hotel within a protected area of the Akamas.
Officials were meantime scrambling to take cover for the – on the surface at least – embarrassing affair after it emerged that a permit had been granted to the hotel to build a platform on the beach, where celebrities Christina Aguilera and Justin Bieber had been booked to perform for the Russian newlyweds and their guests.
The beach party on the beach had been scheduled to take place on Wednesday evening, but was cancelled after authorities revoked the permit. All construction works on the beach were halted and by Thursday afternoon the offending platform had been dismantled.
The permit for the beach party had been issued by the Paphos district office a few days ago.
It’s understood it was granted on condition that any works carried out at the site would not cause any damage to the environment – especially the rare species of turtles that nests there – and that any installations would be dismantled once the event was over.
Although the hotel had applied and received the permit from the Paphos district office, the Department of Forests said the area in question was under its jurisdiction – implying that they were kept in the dark and that, had the hotel applied to them, they would have denied the application.
The affair grabbed attention mid-week after environmentalists flooded social media protesting that the beach party preparations were endangering turtles in the Akamas, which is in a Natura2000 protected area. The turtles and their breeding grounds are also protected.
On Thursday, agriculture minister Nicos Kouyialis said that at first sight, no damage appeared to have been caused to the habitat or the turtles’ nesting grounds on the beach.
He said authorities were analysing sand samples from the site to determine whether the organisers had brought in earth from another area – which would be a violation of environmental regulations.
Meanwhile, Polis mayor Yiotis Papachristofi directly accused pro-environment activists and the Greens of manufacturing the furore over the beach party.
He suggested that photos posted online and showing a bulldozer had been photoshopped, by inserting an image of turtles, to make it look like the earthworks were taking place right next to the nesting grounds.
Moreover, Papachristofi alleged that in other instances – such as at Limni, also a protected area – locals have on more than one occasion spotted environmentalist activists planting non-native turtle nests.
“They bring nests from Lara beach [in the Akamas peninsula] and plant them strategically, always in areas slated for development, to create inflated numbers of turtle nests.
“But when you check under the nests themselves, there are no eggs.”
The Greens vehemently denied the allegations later in the day, insisting that through their swift action they had averted an “environmental disaster” at the Anassa hotel.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Papachristofi said that at the site in question, there are only two or three turtle nests.
The nest nearest the construction works for the beach wedding party was some 150 meters away, he added.
“No one disturbed the turtles. The party organisers brought in a bulldozer to simply flatten the sand in place in order to be able to erect the platform.”
The platform was set to be dismantled anyway right after the party, and the sand would be returned to its original state.
“No harm no foul. But it seems that these so-called environmentalists need to make a fuss to justify their existence.”