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Violations in Akamas: government departments back environmentalists

akamas 3
Photo taken by NGO Terra Cypria showing how the road has been widened by more than stipulated in the plan

The department of environment and the game service have officially acknowledged a slew of violations of the legal terms governing road improvements in Akamas it was reported on Tuesday.

The state agencies in separate letters noted that poor management of the works and construction sites had caused significant negative environmental impacts which must be ameliorated.

According to the environment department’s letter deviations from the requirements of the special ecological study can nonetheless be managed if immediate corrective measures are taken.

The two state agencies also note that the delay in the completion of the works is a major point of concern, for ecological reasons.

This view accords with that of a broad consensus of environmental organisations which issued the initial SOS about the situation in a perceived a last-ditch effort to safeguard the region after a protracted fight spanning close to 40 years.

The department of environment stated that in the course of the works, roads or paths previously blocked to prevent vehicle traffic by means of wooden bollards, had been opened for access threatening sand dunes along Toxeftra.

“Measures should be implemented by the contractor to prevent the passage of [private] vehicles,” the department stated.

The environment department also requested from the forestry department to clarify the reasons for the widening of roads on a case-by-case basis, as well as why more than 65cm deep excavations are observed.

It asked for documentation on the need to construct retaining walls additional to those foreseen in the plans.

As well as the end results of the works to date, the department took to task the manner in which they are being executed.

terra cyprua photo showing part of the extensive road network and retaining walls
Terra Cypria photo showing part of the extensive road network and retaining walls

The department highlighted deviations in the deposition of building materials and debris from previously designated locations without consultation with the authorities, for example in the Lara area. It noted that at Aspro River next to the embankments, large, deposited boulders must be removed and the natural environment landscaped and restored.

Waste from concrete mixers at spots within the boundaries of the project have also been recorded, the department said.

The delay in the project’s completion has the effect of prolonging its negative impacts on species and habitats, which were supposed to have been transient, it was added.

Among other poor management practices, the department listed the fact that protected features had not been marked, as with the dunes in Toxeftra, and that soil is not wetted to reduce dispersion of dust.

For its part, the game service proposed that the entire planning and construction of the Akamas road network ought to be scrapped and completely reevaluated.

The game service in its statement noted that the same re-evaluation should be undertaken for the proposed junctions within the road network.

A much smaller number of junctions can suffice and any redundant ones or those which involve drastic alterations to the natural environment should be axed, the game service said.

Regarding the section of the road from Avakas to Lipati the agency said the plan needs to be reviewed with its input, noting that some works were carried out during hawk species’ breeding season – which is not permitted-without any consultation.

The service also pointed out that it had not realised the works would involve the breaking up and removal of rocky substrate characteristic of the region and to a considerable depth in some cases, and said it considered this inappropriate for the Akamas area.

Retaining walls should be re-evaluated as they are to be placed only where landslides are likely and should have openings to prevent fragmentation of wildlife habitats, the service also noted.

Moreover, the long-term dumping or storage of materials on sensitive slopes that has been recorded, negatively affects flora and restoration of such spots takes a long time, the service said.

Despite constructions underway visitors, including in buggies, “safari tours” and private vehicles continue to be allowed to enter and move freely through the park, making up their own deviations to the routes.

Concern has also been raised over the effects of the delay in water works, supposed to have been implemented for the proper management of drainage and water flows ahead of the rainy season.

The violations in the Akamas road network project are to be brought before parliament for discussion on Wednesday.

Greens MP Charalambos Theopemptou informed the Cyprus Mail that a focal point of the discussion will be to get to the bottom of where exactly the project’s conditions got “lost in translation”, meaning whether the problem arose from improper the instructions delivered to the contractor or elsewhere.

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