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Our View: Location of controversial asphalt plant makes no sense

Demonstrators outside the presidential palace (Christos Theodorides)

THE CAMPAIGN to stop the construction of an asphalt plant in the Pyrga/Kornos area, near Stavrovouni monastery, went to the presidential palace on Sunday to underline people’s opposition to the project. The campaigners, made up of residents of the two villages and monks from Stavrovouni, went to the palace to up the pressure on the government as their protests have not yielded results so far because the government has stood firm.

They have carried out demonstrations in the area and set up a tent just outside the quarry within which the asphalt plant would be set up and secured sympathetic media coverage. Protesters, including some monks, had also arranged a meeting with President Anastasiades, who advised them to accept the money being offered as compensation (said to be in the millions) and allow the project to go ahead, said the lawyer representing Stavrovouni, Giorgos Karapatakis. Money would go on improving roads in the area and some would be donated to the monastery, it was reported.

Anastasiades was told that “our struggle is not about money,” said Karapatakis on Monday. The revelation was seized by the Green party which saw it as a cynical attempt to “buy out” the protesters and demanded an explanation from the president. This was quickly denied by the deputy government spokesman Klelia Vassiliou who tweeted that the president “simply made reference to compensatory measures which could be taken to benefit the area, wishing to mitigate concern over possible degradation of the area.” The exchanges continued throughout the week with allegations that the leaderships of Disy and Diko were putting pressure on campaigners to back down.

The backers of the project, however need to answer some questions. Why was permission given for an asphalt plant in the middle of the countryside? Even if there was a quarry there, it has now been closed down so there is no rational justification for allowing factory to be set on the site. There are industrial zones all over the country that could host such a plant, so why have it in middle of the countryside? What about the adverse health effects that could be caused by the fumes? Financial compensation could mitigate the possible degradation of the area, but how would it ensure against possible harmful consequences for the health of the residents?

It was reported that the department of the environment had given the go-ahead to the project, but how reliable was the environment impact study it carried out? Could it have been influenced by the alleged political connections of the plant owner which may have reached as high as the president? Unfortunately, this cannot be ruled out and it is the reason people are reluctant to accept decisions by state institutions without skepticism. In short, people cannot trust the authorities, especially when they see the president giving his full backing to a project that has no place in the middle of the countryside.

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