BirdLife Cyprus and Terra Cypria on Monday welcomed the decision by the government to freeze the process of creating photovoltaic parks until a strategic environmental impact study has been carried out.
“The environment department have taken the position to draw a line on examining all applications and make a full assessment of the situation, which is exactly what we wanted,” BirdLife Cyprus director Martin Hellicar told the Cyprus Mail.
“Renewable energy sources (RES) are a key tool in tackling the climate crisis, which, together with the loss of biodiversity, is the most important threat to our planet today. However, without a meaningful and comprehensive policy of placing them in the countryside, this can have serious consequences for biodiversity, soil and the natural environment,” the environmental groups warned.
“Given the great sunshine that Cyprus enjoys, the installation of photovoltaic parks is -reasonably – the first line of defence of our country against the climate crisis. However, the large number of applications for photovoltaic parks in the countryside combined with the lack of a holistic and scientifically substantiated spatial policy have led, in many cases, to their inappropriate location within protected natural and agricultural areas with a high number of natural habitats.”
The two conservationist organisations have repeatedly raised concerns regarding the matter over the years, stressing the location of the parks should be chosen in synergy with other government policies such as the strategy and biodiversity action plan, the national energy and climate plan 2021-2030, the protection and conservation of Natura 2000 sites and the safeguarding of agricultural areas.
“The current practice of locating photovoltaic parks leads to fragmentation of the countryside, alteration of the landscape and its geomorphology, loss of valuable agricultural land, change of land use and endangers biodiversity.”
The statement warned the main goal of renewable energy sources, the protection of the environment, is being cancelled out by current practices.
“We expect the immediate formulation of a strategic environmental impact study for 2021-2030, the adoption of an institutional framework and the completion of spatial planning for RES with clear criteria and maps that exclude Natura 2000 protected areas, areas rich in flora and fauna, forest areas, wetlands (natural or artificial), agricultural areas of high natural value and areas with good, irrigated agricultural land but also other parameters and areas of cultural value such as archaeological sites,” they said.