POLIS Chrysochou Mayor Yiotis Papachristofi is trying to drum up support from nearby communities and politicians to fend off “problems” environmentalists cause by opposing development in the region.
Hosting a meeting which was also attended by the four MPs of Paphos district, Papachristofi, said participants discussed their common problems deriving from the opposition of environmentalist organisations to development projects and pushing for restrictions and other obstacles.
The meeting reaffirmed its support for the development of the Limni area – an EU protected area which is part of the Natura 2000 network – but with respect to the environment and the laws of the Republic. The local administration heads condemned any effort for causing trouble to the planned projects concerning the area, that include resorts and golf courses.
The four MPs – Disy’s Costas Constantinou, Akel’s Andreas Fakondis, Diko’s Charalambos Pittokopitis and Edek’s Elias Myrianthous – said that the area has always been neglected by the state and that incentives are needed to encourage development, such as increase of the building coefficient and relaxation of the Natura network.
Meanwhile, Papachristofi said that he had asked Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides to scrutinise the national turtle protection programme maintaining that experts have planted eggs in the Chrysochou Bay to prevent any form of development. The mayor claims that experts running the programme overstep their mandate.
The move follows the spat last week between Papachristofi and the Greens over a wedding beach party at the Anassa hotel within a protected area of the Akamas, where reportedly crews disturbed turtle nests. The mayor claimed that experts running these programmes even place protective cages on the beach to appear that a turtle nest is underneath but that in reality there is nothing there.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, Papachristofi said that he sent the Auditor-general a letter with information concerning the matter and asking him to scrutinise the procedures for the assignment of these programmes and the way they are run, their annual budget, control, and the qualification criteria of those undertaking them.
“The role of these people to which the state has assigned the care of the turtles ought to be studying and recording information on the turtles, offer some protection during the nesting season, training scientists and raising awareness among the public as to knowledge and love for turtles,” he said.
Instead, he said, they have neglected beaches stretching from Paphos to Ayia Napa, and turned all their attention to the Akamas, the Chrysochou Bay and especially the Limni area.
“They come secretly to the area and place protective cages over nests, or supposed nests, and bring over and plant eggs on beaches turtles don’t usually go to, to declare them later as turtle habitats,” Papachristofi said.
He also said that environmentalists misinform the Cypriots and turn public opinion against area residents, while they also interfere with local and town planning plans. Area residents have always been friendly and protective of the turtles, he said.
A beach party in front of Anassa that had been scheduled to take place last week as part of wedding celebrations of a reportedly wealth Russian couple, was cancelled after authorities revoked the permit and all construction works to set up a platform on the beach were halted.
The affair grabbed attention 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. This irked Papachristofi who accused environmentasl activists and the Greens of manufacturing the furore over the beach party.
A couple of days prior to the Anassa affair, the fisheries department announced that some unknown individuals, using what appears to be quad bikes, destroyed 19 out of 70 cages placed to protect turtle nests on Limni beach in Polis.
Following the incident, Papachristofi – who condemned the act – interpreted it as the frustration felt by some locals to conservationists’ insistence on zero development of the area.
Most of the Akamas peninsula is in the Natura 2000 network, an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive.
In Cyprus, where the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) breed, turtles and their eggs are protected by law since 1971. Both turtles, especially the Green, are endangered species. If beaches outside the Natura network are found to have turtle nests, they are also protected.