Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said on Tuesday he would resign if any sort of development takes place on a turtle beach in Chrysochou Bay in Paphos after accusations that private interests were behind the uprooting of trees by authorities in a state forest area that lines the protected beach.
The uprooting of acacia trees from around 700 metres of the Mavralis state forest, which lines the protected sea turtle beaches of Limni and Argakas at Chysochous bay was an obligation of Cyprus based on EU directives, Kadis said, defending the actions of the forestry department against public criticism.
The forestry department defended on Saturday its actions in bulldozing and burning off the acacia trees after the news caused outrage and concern over the effects on the turtle population.
Speaking to state broadcaster CyBC, Kadis said it was sad that there has been such indignation over the past few days against the forestry department which has proved over the years that its main concern is the protection of the forests.
The minister spoke of “cannibalism” on social media at the expense of the forestry department and of persons “who are doing their job properly.”
Acacias, he said, are a threat to many habitats, including those in the Mediterranean, and it has been acknowledged that in the area in question, which is within the EU-wide Natura 2000 network, that the tree species in question was a threat. The management plan for the area prepared by the University of Athens, he said, which has been approved at several levels, says that this threat has to be replaced with a native habitat.
To counter accusations that the forestry department crew also lit fires to destroy the trees, Kadis said that it is one of the ways to best tackle this problem based on international bibliography.
“It was not just our wish to do this, but our obligation as per the relevant EU directive to deal with the threats that are recognised in official documents of the EU,” Kadis said.
He added that the forestry department had already done the same without any problems in a 1,000-metre brow where acacias were replaced, and moved on to the area in question.
Next week native trees will be planted there, Kadis said.
“This will not affect turtles, as the nesting period is not for a while. By then, works will be completed so that turtles are not disturbed or affected and will lay their eggs as in previous years,” he said.
The minister, to put to rest concerns that the intervention was aimed at paving the way for development in the area, said he would resign if anything of the sort happened.
“We are officially giving reassurances that nothing else will take place there. If anything else happens I will go home,” Kadis said.