Environmental NGOs on Tuesday once more sounded the alarm over ongoing developments in the Akamas national park, amid evidence that controversial road widening projects were still ongoing or had resumed.

The roads on which the forestry department is carrying out widening works are included in the main road network, which was to be reassessed by June 2024, the NGOs said.

“In the last month, the department of forests has been implementing work to improve and widen the main forest roads from Ais Minas to Smigies and Smigies to Koutsagas […] Terra Cypria and BirdLife Cyprus express […] strong concern [that] the procedures by [the department] in such sensitive areas are not following [agreed upon] legal procedures,” the NGOs said.

The specific area falls within the active territory of the Northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis); the nesting area of the endemic Cyprus wheatear (Oenanthe cypriaca) and Cyprus warbler (Sylvia melanothorax) as well as several unique and endemic wild flora species.

The environmental groups reiterated that the special ecological assessment report (SEA) for Phase A of the road network, issued in March this year, as well as the relevant decision by the council of ministers, dated March 19, provided for the “ongoing re-evaluation, over three months, of [planned] infrastructure hubs and other works and management logistics of the [sustainable development] plan for Akamas”.

Additionally, the NGOs recalled the state’s earlier interventions had provided for the “preparation of a new proposal and returning the issue to the Cabinet in June 2024, among other things, including a final realistic work schedule for the rest of the Akamas projects, without further delays.

“Instead, the department of forests seems to have already proceeded with works without any informing the responsible SEA ad hoc committee and above all without the overall re-evaluation [of planned infrastructure], including both the main forest roads and the management nodes,” the organisations said.

The NGOs requested that the relevant ad-hoc committee be immediately informed regarding the widening of the main forest roads mentioned.

They demanded the ministry act, saying “we call on the minister of agriculture to ensure that no further work to improve and/or widen the forest road is carried out within the Akamas park before a full re-evaluation of the sustainable development plan by the SEA committee.”

Minister of Agriculture Maria Panayiotou several weeks ago had announced works were to restart on April 2 and be wrapped up by the first week of May, pledging that the government’s priority is to highlight Akamas’ natural wealth and ensure projects carried out leave no impact to the environment.