A national strategy to rejuvenate endangered Troodos communities will be ready by September at the latest and will start being implemented immediately, President Nicos Anastasiades pledged on Monday.
He was addressing a conference of 26 academics and specialists called to formulate a plan over the future of the Troodos mountains. Two more gatherings of scientific and technical groups within the next two months are expected to determine the basis for the detailed action plan for Troodos.
As a first step, the University of Thessalia has conducted research on how to address the problems facing the mountain villages which include a population drain and the lack of infrastructure to attract both foreign and local tourists.
The scientists visited 114 communities to form a comprehensive development plan which will be ready in September.
The director of the agricultural laboratory of the University of Thessalia, Demetris Gousios, told participants at the meeting that the research confirmed the challenges, such as the ageing population, the continued population drain mainly from isolated regions and the lack of competitiveness.
But he also focused on the positive signs which should be developed. These included the support for handicrafts, the return of some families and the willingness of locals to organise themselves based on their shared identity and desire to exploit the advantages of the region.
In total, the researchers identified 20 such categories.
On the basis of the findings, an “aggressive scenario”, as Gousios put it, is being formed, aimed at “regaining and strengthening the territorial cohesion of Troodos through the development of a more sustainable and functional environment and by valuing local resources”.
He warned that the national mountain project must be sustainable and should take the particularities of the region into consideration, balancing principles of protection and development and improving external and internal connectivity.
Talking at the meeting was also the man the president has appointed as adviser for the huge project, Yiannakis Papadouris, community leader of the mountain village of Kalopanayiotis, who also runs a successful business in Dubai.
Since 2002, when he was voted community leader, Papadouris has been at the forefront of the village’s transformation, adding roads and renovating old buildings into hotels, a library, self-catering apartments, a popular spa resort and restaurants.
He suggests Troodos should follow Kalopanayiotis’ example.
“The aim is that from now on, every ministry, each community council, each organisation and entrepreneur should follow the same road development map for the growth and revival of Troodos by halting the uncoordinated, fragmented and non-rational development that is currently being observed by the communities,” he said.
To this end, he has undertaken to invest a great deal of money including paying for the university study and the co-ordination of the academics. So far, this alone has amounted to €200,000, but he has pledged to give as much money as it will take to see the project through and is confident it will succeed.
“The research has shown that the residents of Troodos know how to survive and create. For example, we have identified a large number of businesses, crafts, tourism and commercial services that need recognition, with all that implies,” he said.