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Environmental groups demand meeting with minister over Akamas

Akamas, Akamas plan, construction
Construction materials in the Akamas

A raft of environmental groups sent an open letter to Agriculture Minister Petros Xenophontos on Friday, demanding a meeting with him to discuss the currently frozen road construction works in Akamas.

The groups, namely BirdLife Cyprus, Terra Cypria, Cyprus Natural Coastline, and the Cyprus Wildlife Society, slammed the “violation of legally binding, essential, and specific conditions” which were set out when the construction works were approved.

They said, “there has been a clear violation of several conditions, which six of the seven members [of the ad hoc committee for the special ecological assessment] have acknowledged through their own letters.”

They added that “the final construction plans of the first phase of the improvements to the area’s road network were not presented before the relevant committees, and notably, they were not presented to the ad hoc committee for the special ecological assessment.”

As a result of these claimed deficiencies, they said they are “calling for measures to restore legitimacy and prevent any further catastrophic environmental damage, as well as establishing a legal framework to protect and manage the area.”

The groups’ letter directly contradicts statements made on Thursday by company Efpalinos Meletitiki.

The company had said that the relevant authorities had been “kept informed at all stages of the study and licencing of the project.”

Additionally, the company accused the Forestry department of “continuously targeting company employees”.

They had said all those involved in the licencing process were aware of every stage of planning and construction and added that some people are “moving from the realm of conclusions to coincidences, scenarios, and assumptions.”

Additionally, they said “it would be easy” to see in the construction plans if construction did not follow the planned routes.

They added that complaints and photographs published by non-governmental organisations “have been answered in detail in writing and given to the Forestry department and the agriculture minister”.

Earlier, Petros Xenophontos had said a report on the works in Akamas will be ready next week.

He had added that he would not comment any further, as it could impede the administrative investigation into the matter.

Last week, Auditor-General Odysseas Michaelides slammed the agriculture ministry’s choice of investigator, as the individual is an officer seconded from the Forestry department, which had previously claimed there were no deviations in the works.

The Environment department and the Game Fund had already both officially acknowledged that that there had been violations.

Last week’s decision to completely halt construction had been welcomed by the members of the House environment committee and the committee’s other attendees.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Xenophontos said he had “expressed concerns” at a meeting held last Friday at the Athalassa environmental centre and added that he was “not satisfied with what I saw or heard”.

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