Cyprus Mail

Akamas roadworks to be reviewed

Akamas, Akamas plan, construction
Construction materials in the Akamas

The cabinet has approved a proposal for changes concerning the implementation of the Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) projects for the Akamas National Park, specifically a review of the contentious roadworks being carried out, it was announced on Thursday.

The proposal was submitted by Agriculture Minister Petros Xenofontos.

According to an announcement, the improvement of the road network Phase A, which includes the Aspros-Lara, Cyklikos-Lara and Toxeftra-Avakas-Lipati roads, which began in November 2022 with a duration of 14 months had the aim of upgrading the roads “with as little impact as possible” on local habitats and the Natura 2000 area.

This, however proved not to be the reality with photos showing the extent of disruption to the area.

The review, it added, was proposed after taking into account “the long and unjustified delay in the implementation of the projects with the risk of increasing and expanding the environmental burden”.

It said there was a need to complete the road network within the existing open construction site as soon as possible to reverse the effects created by the “untimely completion of the works as well as the wider feelings of society to protect the Akamas”.

The cabinet reconfirmed that the framework and philosophy of the creation of the National Forest Park would continue to be implemented. To “right the perceived wrongs” over the road network a review will be carried out by June 2024.

In addition, the overseeing of the project would be transferred from the forestry department to the environment department by February 2024 while there would be an evaluation of parts of the existing contract as soon as possible.

The road review by experts, including those from the technical chamber Etek, will cover all phases and a new timetable for completion of the works with a view to “gentler routing within the forest park”.

The proposal also includes restoring the habitats affected by the roadworks within a specific time frame and even the employment of additional personnel to make sure it all goes smoothly, headed by a project team and coordinator.

An administrative investigation into the project is to be completed by January 15, the announcement said.

It emerged last week that the audit office had been asked by the House environment committee to look into the works in the Akamas in the context of the construction contracts awarded by the forestry department.

The administrative investigation carried out earlier by the Department of the Environment had found a number of irregularities. It also spotted discrepancies between the Special Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the subsequent environmental approval granted for the roadworks project.

The audit probe had set out to answer two questions. First, whether the SEA on the Akamas road works was handed over to the project surveyors to be included in the final construction plans. Secondly, whether these were officially presented before the ad hoc environmental advisory committee.

This was not properly done, Xenophontos conceded on December 5.

The minister made the remarks after being briefed on the findings of the administrative investigation – which has not been made public.

However, anecdotal evidence in the meantime pointed to heavy vehicles and machinery used in the roadworks of the type used in urban construction – and this in the Akamas area designated as protected.

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