Paphos politicians went on parade on the CyBC radio’s morning current affairs show on Thursday to lambast environmentalists and Birdlife Cyprus for their petition aimed at stopping the construction of the Paphos-Polis highway. The petition, of 2,500 signatures, was handed over to the under-secretary to the president Vassilis Palmas, who was criticised by Paphos politicians for meeting a delegation of Birdlife Cyprus a few days earlier.
Some of these politicians argued that the conservationists should not have a say in the matter as the highway was desperately needed by the Paphos district, the people of which all supported the project. They also claimed, rather incredulously, that the road would revive the district which had been neglected by central government, forcing its youth to leave in search of opportunities elsewhere. This is very difficult to believe considering the scale of construction and development in the Paphos district. The absence of a highway has not hindered the rampant development of the district, which does not look like slowing down any time soon.
Even the motives of the conservationists, were questioned by the Paphos highway lobby, accusing them of “serving other purposes”. A Polis youth group went as far as to say that groups like BirdLife Cyprus “do not have the right to take a position on the matter because they are unauthorised and serve other purposes.” It wondered whether their objective was “conspiracy for the illegal influence of the government and the serving of hidden purposes,” and asked whether this was illegal intervention in the rights of third parties!
This is blatant intimidation by the Paphos camp which does not recognise the right of anyone with a different view to have a say regarding the highway. They have gone as far as to say that protecting the environment and bird species was not a legitimate cause, dismissing at as illegal and claiming there was a hidden agenda. It is all nonsense, avoiding the real issues which is that a highway is unnecessary as the traffic to justify it does not exist and the district could be served by expanding and improving the existing road at a much lower cost.
The highway will also go through the Ezousa Valley which is a Natura 2000 protected site, as well as threatening many bird species of the area. The government, under pressure from the district, dismissed an environmental impact study that mentioned these things by declaring the road a public interest project, which is questionable. It would be much more in the public interest for the existing road to be improved without causing any harm to nature and the scenic countryside at a fraction of the cost of the highway. The supporters of the project, however, do not recognise the right of anyone to say so.