The report about the authorities’ disregard for environmental protection, published in Wednesday’s Environment pages of the Cyprus Mail, should sound the alarm to everyone who cares and values Cyprus’ beaches.
This government has shown support for the idea of private beaches, turned a blind eye to developers carrying out work on the beaches, relaxed planning permits in the sea caves area in Paphos and allowed structural work on a seafront in Protaras so that it could be used for sun beds and umbrellas among other things.
A member of the Akti NGO, set up to promote environmental awareness and sustainable development, told this paper that “our coast is an endangered species and should be protected.” This was no exaggeration given what has been happening in the last 10 years or so, and the way the government has tried to change the laws to make it easier for developers and businesses to interfere on beaches. Not that the existing laws have stopped rogue businesses from doing things without permits, given that penalties are far from severe.
Greens leader, Charalampos Theopemptou, said how a bill before the legislature, for the new municipalities allowed all types on intervention on the beaches. This included “things like the ability of a local authority to dig up a beach, setting prices for each beach so we could have ‘luxury beaches’, making all illegal constructions on a beach legal, allowing the placing of tables and chairs on beaches,” he said. All these provisions had been removed, said Theopemptou, but it showed what the government’s agenda was.
The truth is all governments have been lax in protecting the environment as the law governing environmental impact studies has shown. The fact that a developer chooses and pays the company that will carry out an environmental impact assessment of a proposed project, shows how weighted in favour of the developer the law is. Is there a chance in a million that a company will recommend that its paymaster’s project should not be undertaken because it would damage the environment?
The question is, how can these systematic encroachments on the coastal areas by developers and businesses be stopped, when the government and most of the political parties do not seem to object to them? And how long will it be before the developers start encroaching on the coastline of the Akamas peninsula, which has been successfully protected so far? Campaigns in the eighties contributed to the protection of the Akamas, but it is more difficult to campaign for the protection of different beaches scattered all over Cyprus.
We need a campaign to protect our beaches and state officials in different departments that care for the environment should also be recruited. The Forestry Department has done a very good job of protecting the Troodos mountains and forests. There should be a state office doing the same for the beaches.