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Akamas communities say villages are dying, demand ‘mild development’

Communities bordering the Akamas say the 30-year ban on development in the area has destroyed the villages

Mayor of Polis Chrysochous on Monday called for more tourist accommodation in the area, saying demand was far outstripping supply.

Mayor Yiotis Papachristofi told the Cyprus News Agency that the municipal council wants increased building coefficients in the new local master plan to allow for more hotel units.

At present, there are only two hotels in Polis: a two-star one with 45 rooms and a three-star one with 65 rooms.

While rental apartments and villas are available, the service they offer is not the same as that found in hotels, he said.

“We believe that next year when we start negotiating the new master plan, we will be able to prove the need to increase the [building] coefficient, so that there can be viable [hotel] units,” he said.

For decades, communities in the Akamas peninsula and Polis Chrysochous whose areas fall within the Natura 2000 network have been pushing for more development, arguing that due to strict town planning regulations, they have been unable to utilise their properties, citing also breach of their human rights.

Some of Polis Chrysochous’ beaches are major nesting sites for the Mediterranean Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), which is an endangered species, along with the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) which nests in the Lara/Toxeftra area of the Akamas Peninsula.

Ahead of the preparation by the government of the Akamas area master plan that has been on the drawing board for several years, the communities of Neo Chorio, Droushia, Inia, Pano Arodes, Kato Arodes and the municipality of Polis Chrysochous joined forces and launched the Community Action for Akamas (KDA) initiative in a bid to coordinate their actions regarding the master plan and the Sustainable Development Plan of Akamas National Forest Park.

The state plan is for the Akamas National Forest Park to cover an area of 77 square kilometres and include all state land, forestry and other, while measures to protect and promote the environment were taken for the whole Natura area that includes both state and private property. State land comprises some 75 per cent of all land in the Akamas.

A banner saying ‘Akamas, 30 years refugees in our own place’

The communities hoisted banners last week in public spaces claiming their human rights and to raise awareness over what they have faced for the past 30 years.

Some of the banners say: “Akamas, 30 years trapped in hollow promises”, and “Akamas, 30 years of being led on, communities are struggling to survive”.

The initiative said in an announcement that these communities have been withering for the past 30 years when the government introduced a new policy “on a massive number of private properties” that were defined as within a nature protection zone. This meant a zero-building coefficient and a ban on development.

This, the initiative said, “was done as a precautionary measure pending the identification of areas that truly need full protection”.

Given that now the maximum protection areas have been designated as part of the Natura Network Management Plan, the initiative said they want the protected area status imposed in 1989, lifted. They said they also want the provisions governing the Natura areas to apply in all private properties outside the maximum protection zones.

Mayor of Inia Yangos Tsivikos said that Natura 2000 does not mean the disappearance of human life but the harmonious coexistence of nature and man. “Mild and sustainable development is permitted within the Natura network,” he said.

The initiative said they would like to see mild development on the 25 per cent of the Natura land area, which is comprised of private properties, in a bid to reverse the decline of communities.

“The residents of Akamas have been deprived of their inalienable property rights for 30 years, resulting in poorer communities and the majority of young people leaving the countryside looking for work in urban centres,” the announcement said.

Community leader of Neo Chorio Andreas Christodoulou Machimos said two-thirds of primary schools in the Akamas area are closed, while deaths far outnumber births in these villages.

“The master plan for the area is the only way to ensure a better future for the local population and that is why the initiative claims the inclusion in it of special provisions to allow mild development,” it said.

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