Constructing new wave breakers in pursuit of sandy beaches for tourism is a short-sighted policy that harms the environment, three NGOS warned on Thursday as they called for an in-depth re-examination of coastal erosion.
In a joint statement, BirdLife Cyprus, Terra Cypria – the Cyprus Conservation Foundation, and AKTI project and research centre issued a joint statement in which they slammed increased construction of wave breakers as a reckless policy aimed at creating sandy beaches at any cost.
“Promoting wave breakers as the first answer to ‘upgrading’ a coastline is a shortsighted, short-term policy. In most cases is does not protect the coast. On the contrary it aggravates the problem and strips the coast of its ability to safeguard the wider coastal front,” they said.
Once a wave breaker is built, the waves carry the sand from the coast near it to the area in front of it where it is trapped. This leads to coastal erosion nearby, as it disturbs the momentum of the waves and by extension the dynamic equilibrium of the wider coastline.
There is a resulting knock-on effect. A problem is created further along the coast which requires the construction of more wave breakers to be addressed, and on it goes, the announcement added.
There is also an impact on biodiversity, as wave breakers interrupt the natural contact of the coast with the sea, making it difficult for sea turtles who come to Cyprus to lay their eggs to access the beach.
In cases where the seafloor is rocky, natural characteristics disappear because of the sand. Wave breakers also threaten the valuable Posidonia oceanica, commonly known as Neptune grass or Mediterranean tapeweed – a seagrass species endemic to the Mediterranean which the three NGOs said operates on its own as a powerful natural wave breaker.
Constructing wave breakers requires digging up boulders from the mountains and ravines that could be environmentally sensitive, as in the case of the quarries at Androlikou situated adjacent to the Natura 2000 protected area of the Akamas.
The three NGOs proposed a strategic review of coastal erosion to determine where there is a problem and assess the environmental repercussions so that wave breakers are built only where absolutely necessary. The removal of wave breakers should not be ruled out.
“A large part of the coastal front of Cyprus has filled or is set to fill with wave breakers, even in environmentally sensitive areas. In reality though wave breakers very often aim at creating sandy beaches so as to attract a large number of swimmers. Often the price is high, leading to irreparable changes to the coast only to serve the saturated sea-sun-sand tourist product, for which there are plenty of coast on our island.”
Coasts are natural, dynamic eco-systems which can protect the interior from extreme weather phenomena.
Restoring coastal eco-systems and wetlands linked to the sea is essential not just to address erosion but extreme weather events as a result of climate change, the three NGOs concluded.