Huge delays in the roadworks in Akamas have been seen, Environment Minister Petros Xenophontos said on Tuesday while visiting the area as environmental groups and the audit service claiming some of the roadworks went against the environmental study for the area.

“What is determined is the huge delay by the contractor to finish this very important project for the area,” Xenophontos said.

However, earlier this week, environmental groups had called for the works to cease as they were going against the environmental study. The issue was also brought up by the audit service, which visited the area last week, and said that large parts of the roads had been widened, despite the study saying no changes would occur.

Asked about this, Xenophontos said it seems that nothing has been done that deviates from the study, however he noted that the most serious issue identified is the huge delay in the completion of the project.

“The project should have been finished by now, so we are talking about a very significant delay,” he said, explaining that the contractor has appealed to the government to get an extension and that this request will be examined.

Xenophontos said that the project is meant to finish by December 27, but that the contractor has severely delayed the works. He added that he will attempt to meet with the contractor as this is an important project for the area.

Earlier in the day the forestry department said no deviations from the environmental study have been made, and all the terms laid out in it are being followed in Akamas.

It said the plan was being fully complied with, and it would “position itself if and when it receives any comments and observation from the environment department and the audit service”.

The first phase of the works is currently being carried out under the auspices of the department, which will improve forestry roads for private use.

“An issue has been raised and discussion is being held on [the roadworks], without having clearly set out the problem and its details,” the department said.

It added that after the problem was raised, the forestry department requested the environment department conduct checks to ensure that all the guidelines set out in the environmental study are being followed.

The issue of the roadworks is set to be discussed by the House environment committee next week.

Despite the agreed upon implementation of the National Akamas Forest Plan, officially underway since September 1, environmental groups raised concerns over works underway.

Terra Cypria, BirdLife, Friends of Akamas, the Greens and Akel have all recently asked for an immediate suspension of the roadworks, over suspicions that they are being executed in violation of precisely stipulated, non-negotiable conditions attached to the national plan, stemming from a special study commissioned by the agriculture ministry.

Those raising the alarm have asked for the environment department to conduct an onsite review of the situation prior to allowing any further works, and Akel has vowed to resurrect the topic, as well as that of stalled compensatory measures for landowners, in the parliamentary committee.