Construction of a new highway will damage bird habitats and is proceeding against the advice of environment studies, BirdLife said on Friday.

BirdLife has raised concerns about the decision taken by the Council of Ministers to deem the construction of a four-lane highway from Astromeritis to Evrychou of public interest, overriding the opinion of the environmental department, who said it would have a negative impact on the area.

The project, at a cost of €70 million, received the government green light on March 17. The highway will only be 11.3km long.

According to BirdLife, two bird species in the area where the highway will be built, namely the European roller and the Eurasian stone-curlew, risk losing around 25 per cent of their population, as the project will directly impact their breeding and feeding habitat.

“We want at least to know why the highway is so important that the Council of Ministers decided to go against the environmental department’s opinion and consider it an absolute necessity,” BirdLife nature policy officer Vasiliki Anastasi told the Cyprus Mail.

“In this case, the highway would severely affect the Natura 2000 area of Ayios Theodoros,” Anastasi said.

“What is most surprising is the fact that a governmental authority such as the environmental department said the project would have a negative impact on the area, just to see its decision overridden by the Council of Ministers,” she said.

In a statement released on Friday, BirdLife said it is not the first time the government has decided to carry out construction projects in protected areas, referring to the Ayia Napa marina and the highway linking Paphos to Polis Chrysochous.

“The government is not considering any alternatives to the project, claiming it is of public interest. But we do have to ask ourselves what constitutes public interest.”