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Akamas works ‘partially frozen’, House environment committee hears

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Widened roads and a retaining wall in the Akamas

Works in Akamas are “partially frozen,” the agriculture ministry’s general director Costas Hadjipanayiotou told the House environment committee on Wednesday, noting that the Ministry’s administrative investigation into the matter is pending.

The committee heard that no major construction is taking place for new works, with Hadjipanayiotou noting that some safety-related work is being done in some places as considerations are being made to resolve outstanding issues through the Central Committee on Changes and Claims.

He explained that an ad hoc committee has been created, which will deliver a report regarding the current issues that exist for any compromise with the contractor, due in the next five to 10 days.

He also said that contacts have been made between the forestry department and the public works department in order to regulate risk and safety issues, which will involve putting up informative signs and the assembly of a crew that will be on call during works, to take care of issues of safety, danger or water pumping if necessary.

Regarding the future expansion of the road network, he said that the next phases are being re-evaluated, quoting Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos, who said that there will be a full re-evaluation of the indicators and parameters of the road and junctions.

He also said that an administrative investigation is being carried out to determine whether the researchers have been given the conditions of the ecological report, so that they can be considered when drawing up construction plans – but also whether the final construction plans have been presented before the committee.

The committee heard that the state has no intention of ending the road construction projects in the Akamas plan, but added that the ministry is in the process of identifying a foreign expert on protected parks, to re-evaluate the criteria and parameters of the project soon.

Hadjipanayiotou noted that no new road was built in Lara, but part of a road that was already laid out was opened, while mostly informal roads belonging to private land were used for crossing.

Finally, he said the ministry has taken seriously the suggestion by environmental organisations to assess any damage and its extent in the geographical coverage for loss of habitats, and noted that a relevant study is being carried out by the environment department, which will be ready next week.

The forestry department’s deputy director Andreas Christou said that the contractor initially submitted a request to the Central Committee on Changes and Claims for an extension, for which the decision is still pending.

A second request was submitted, requesting an amicable settlement regarding financial requirements and an extension of the implementation of the project, which was referred to the ad hoc committee, with the Central Committee on Changes and Claims set to make the final decision.

An environment department spokesperson said the ad hoc committee’s role was to assess the risks to Natura2000 areas from the projects.

“We want to see what the impact is now; that is the question,” he said.

For his part, Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides said his own compliance report will not be ready before January, adding that there are photos included in the study of the situation before the works “and it is obvious that there were no 10m wide roads”.

If we consider that the goal of developing the road network is to give development rights to locals, that means it would vindicate those saying that the road is not designed according to the ecological assessment, he added.

Michaelides said that this area always had very limited development rights, with one exception in 1979 when very limited “unacceptable” development rights were granted, which were later revoked. Any residents who appealed to the courts on the matter, “all lost,” he said.

“Just because Akamas is close to the sea, it doesn’t mean we would turn it into plots”.

Polis Chrysochous mayor Yotis Papachristofis said that “as local authorities we consider that we have been punished by the Akamas issue for 30 years,” adding that they had to make compromises to accept a national forest plan.

“We expected it to be completed as soon as possible and to have some benefits,” he said, noting that he does not think the issues raised by environmentalists exist.

“If changes need to be made, they should be made, but let the work be done as soon as possible,” he said, referring to “unacceptable changes” that are not included in what was agreed.

Meanwhile, Inia community leader Yiangos Tsivikos expressed his dissatisfaction with the development, noting that the project “must continue immediately, without obstacles”.

He said the only ones benefiting from the delay are the contractor and environmental organisations.
“You are getting the contractor out of a difficult position, because the project is delayed. The only ones suffering are the residents,” he said.

Meanwhile, Giorgos Chrysochos, director of the Cyfield group that has undertaken the project, showed the committee photographs and videos showing that the road has not been widened at the expense of the environment.

Noting that they have fully complied with the environmental study, he said that some debris have been placed in places foreseen by it and there is no substantial variation from the plans.

He added that the only thing left to complete is the beach, which can be done in a few weeks, stressing that delays could be even more detrimental to the environment.

A representative of Etek also expressed the opinion that the time extension significantly burdens the ecosystem, underlining the importance of the short completion of the projects. He also said that “at first sight the contractor is following the studies that have been done”.

The House environment committee also examined a possible conflict of interest involving employees of the research company that compiled the study of the project.

Employees reacted to questions from MP Alexandra Attalides, who asked whether the company’s current designer was a municipal engineer in the Paphos municipality, and whether the second employee is a landowner with a country house in Inia, employees

They said they did not see how her questions were related to the discussion, with Diko deputy Chrysanthos Savvides responding that “we don’t care where (the employee) was before”.

The Auditor General said that the parties have a contractual obligation to take measures to prevent conflicts of interest.

Representatives from the company said that there had been delays in the completion of the project and had requested the termination of the contract with the contractor.

“Our view: the project should be finished as it is,” they said.

“These roads should serve traffic needs only with the park’s minibuses and not by encouraging the access of hundreds of private cars, for which 658 parking spaces have also been created,” Kyriakos Tsimillis said on behalf of the Friends of Akamas.

He also raised the issue of encapsulating in legislation the term “National Park” which in itself would give clear answers to how a particular area, like the Akamas Peninsula, is protected.

Cleitos Papastylianou, representative of the federation of environmental organisations, said that six of the seven members of the ad hoc committee acknowledged that there was a violation of the terms of the ecological study.

He noted that environmental organisations made a site visit and recorded, photographed and documented the violation of conditions in a 34-page table.

“The fault lies in the plans, which differ from the conditions of the environmental authority,” he said.

Speaking after the session, committee chair and Green party MP Charalambos Theopemptou, said it had been “disappointing”.

Deputies echoed the sentiment, with most saying that there are many questions still unanswered.

Disy deputy Prodromos Alambritis said that they await the Ministry’s official investigation, as the question of whether the final plans took into account the ecological assessment and the conditions set by the committee has not been answered.
“Do we have roads beyond what was planned, do we have rubble in areas where it shouldn’t be, or irreversible consequences for the environment?” he asked, saying he hoped the re-evaluation of the plans wouldn’t take another 35 years.
The one who needs to answer for this is the government, Akel’s Andreas Kafkalias said, noting that they have not received any answer for two weeks.
He noted that the president himself said that he is disturbed by interventions in Akamas and asked for the freezing of operations, and that the minister said that he is not satisfied with what he hears and sees in relation to Akamas.
He also noted that the ministry’s report would be ready on Friday and asked why it is not ready yet.
Savvides asked the competent agencies to confirm the sequence of events recorded in a document submitted by the design company, and in which it is noted that several checks were carried out by the competent agencies from the beginning of the project until today.
Attalidou said that one side considers that because it owns property it has the right to development and attacks others but has an economic interest.
She referred to the research firm’s document, which stated that environmental organizations also have a financial interest as they continue to receive sponsorship.
The MP said that the environmental organisations are trying to send the message that not everything is available for construction and added that “the forest park was circumvented because there are interests that influence the respective government and do not think about the residents”
“The state services are supposed to protect the Natura areas are turning your head elsewhere,” she finally said, adding she intends to complain.
“If the state cannot protect the public interest, then we will go further,” she said.

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