The ministry of agriculture will accept final recommendations for the sustainable development of the Akamas national forest park from interested parties until February 2, Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis said on Friday.
He was speaking in Droushia after a public consultation attended by 250 people organised by the ministry and the forestry department on the development plan.
The stakeholders present included communities, local residents, non-governmental organisations and environmentalists.
The goal, Kouyialis said, is to ‘lay a strong foundation for the wider development of Akamas and Polis Chrysochous’. A three-year plan aims to create a park to protect nature and biodiversity, and at the same time attract more visitors as well as benefit communities and provide a strong foundation for sustainable development in the region.
“The views of the various stakeholders and all those who would like to be part of this project, which has been the subject of a wider consultation since May 2017, will be considered and the experts who have undertaken this work have come into contact with all stakeholders,” Kouyialis said.
Therefore, he added, the project is a product of wider consultation.
“We expect”, he said, “to create a unique park, an ornament for the Eastern Mediterranean.”
The park, which covers an area of 77 square kilometres, will be managed jointly by the forestry department and the local communities. Any revenue from the activities to be allowed within the park will benefit the communities significantly, while part of the profits will be used for park maintenance purposes, he concluded.
About six or seven representatives of environmental organisations were present at the consultation, among them Martin Hellicar from BirdLife Cyprus and Lefkios Sergides from Terra Cypria. They said a lively discussion took place and there are good elements in the development plan.
“There are 1,000,000 visitors to the area, which is a huge pressure,” Hellicar said. “The plan is to limit the access to four main access points.”
There will also a small charge for entering, depending on the person. Hunters will be charged but not people who own land in the area, and there will be higher charges for quad bikes.
“We are not so happy with other parts of the plan. There are too many facilities planned for very sensitive areas like Lara. We feel that these very sensitive areas should be less pressured,” Hellicar said.
Sergides added that although the forestry department and the agriculture minister are behind the plan, it is less clear if other departments involved such as the fisheries and environment departments will also support it.
Both believe another good part of the plan, if all goes as the consultants say, is that it will be implemented step-by-step, with illegal buildings being removed and access points created before other steps are taken.