By Lizzy Ioannidou
For the first time, the government on Monday appointed a commissioner for the development of mountain communities who will coordinate the finalisation and initiation of the national strategy to rejuvenate the Troodos, Larnaca and Paphos mountain regions.
During a confirmation ceremony at the presidential palace where Yiannakis Papadouris was sworn in as commissioner, President Nicos Anastasiades said that recognising both the problems faced by mountain communities but also their potential, the aim was that through development those communities would be restructured to make them more attractive for living and working.
“The aim is also to create a model for mountain tourism in Cyprus tailored to the natural, cultural and architectural environment of the mountain regions,” Anastasiades said.
Earlier this year, the cabinet approved the interior minister’s strategic plan for the development of mountain regions, which seeks to halt and reverse the decades-long depopulation of the Troodos area by attracting more people to live in the area, to promote tourism, to balance the protection and exploitation of natural resources and to improve infrastructure and transport.
Papadouris, who has served until today as the president’s personal advisor and as mayor of the village of Kalopanayiotis, will be coordinating the implementation of the development plan for the mountain regions of Troodos, Larnaca, and Paphos.
The plan, Anastasiades said, will take into account all the relevant studies carried out until today, as well as studies currently underway and close to completion.
Following his appointment as personal advisor to the president in September 2017, Papadouris assigned the drawing up of the comprehensive development model to the University of Thessalia.
The scientists visited 114 communities, conducting 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 first findings, from the early stages of the development of the plan, have revealed interesting and optimistic data on the development and future of Troodos. The first study concerns the Troodos mountain region. As a model, it will also be used for the Larnaca and Paphos mountain areas,” Anastasiades said.
Papadouris said that the researchers found that a programme for a comprehensive rural development, which is already being implemented in other European countries with noticeable success, can begin implementation in the next programmable period.
“By the first 10 days of January we will be ready to present the final text of a comprehensive national strategy to the cabinet,” Papadouris said.
Regarding the construction of a road network in the Troodos area, Papadouris said that the researchers had suggested the implementation of a 10-year plan.
“The construction of a new rural mountain economy is the core of the national strategy for the development of mountain communities, the pillars of which revolve around reforms in agriculture, manufacturing, and the development and promotion of a touristic product tailored to the unique characteristics of Troodos,” Papadouris said.
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 suggested in June that Troodos should follow Kalopanayiotis’ example.