It seems Cyprus couldn’t care less about the warning it recently received from Brussels over inadequate protection of Natura 2000 sites by giving the green light to a huge new development on Akrotiri Peninsula, BirdLife Cyprus said on Tuesday.
The conservation organisation said in a written statement that this new development concerns the licensing of 78 building plots at Zakaki in Limassol, situated between the Casino-Resort and the Zakaki marsh, intended for houses, apartments and offices.
The plot, that has the size of 45 football fields, is adjacent to the Natura 2000 area of Akrotiri Wetlands within the British Bases, the group said. It is also situated within an ‘Important Bird Area’, which should have been designated as Natura 2000, for two birds of prey, the Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) and the Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus).
“These protected birds will be significantly affected by the loss of valuable farmland habitat especially in conjunction with other licensed developments in the area,” it said.
“BirdLife Cyprus considers the permitting of this development a wrong and unjustified move.”
It added the procedure followed was legally flawed “and bordering on an insult to common sense.”
The group argues that the issued opinion even violates the environmental terms that were set out by the same environmental authority to mitigate the effects of the nearby casino resort. It also said that no ecological assessment took place since neither the Cypriot authorities nor the British Bases requested it.
BirdLife said even the mitigation terms included in the environmental authority’s opinion are actually contributing to the gradual loss of the habitat.
The terms pertaining to the Natura 2000 site and the project’s impacts on the species have no scientific basis, since the ecological assessment is absent, it said, while there are mitigation measures for the birds of the area, which fail to limit the impact on these species and have nothing to do with the ecology of the birds that will be affected by this project.
The terms also include landscaping plans that seek to ‘offset’ the loss of habitat. However, the fact that these ‘green spaces’ are to be created on the outskirts of a large development is completely ignored, and these green spaces will fail to replace the habitat that will be lost, it said.
In addition, it said, the green light was given for the construction of a road on the development’s southern border, along the edge of the fragile ecosystem of Akrotiri, without any form of environmental impact assessment.
The group also said that the opinion itself acknowledges that no measures have been evaluated for the reduction of subsequent disturbance and no plan has been proposed to manage the problem of mosquitoes.
The mosquito nuisance to future users of the development will result in increased pressure to drain adjacent protected wetlands where mosquitoes breed, such as the Zakaki marsh, it said.
But “the icing on the cake”, the group said, are the conditions set in the opinion giving the green light for the casino-resort, just to the north of this project. One of them – essential for nature conservation according to this opinion – was the establishment of a green belt south of the Casino, to protect the wetland and its wildlife by creating a ‘buffer zone’, it said. “The problem is that this solution, this green patch of land that would serve as a buffer, now becomes the new development area!”
The organisation wonders what “sort of distorted vision does the state have for the ‘sustainable’ development of our island?”