Environment Commissioner Antonia Theodosiou emphasised the importance of integrating Cypriot communities into UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves, highlighting the Diarizos-Xeropotamos Valleys as the first area in Cyprus to pursue this status.

Speaking at the seminar “From Local to Global Protection” held on Saturday, Theodosiou stressed that the effort towards sustainable development and protection of the area “is a top priority for my office”. She announced a collaborative agreement with the Cyprus National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of Education, and the Department of Environment.

Theodosiou explained that UNESCO Biosphere Reserves promote economic development, cultural and environmental sustainability, and biodiversity protection. These reserves include areas with significant biodiversity and communities that aim to combine ecosystem protection with sustainable use.

A crucial requirement for a region to be designated as a Biosphere Reserve, as she said, is that part of it must be legally protected, as is the case with the Diarizos-Xeropotamos Valleys, which are part of the Natura 2000 network.

“A region does not simply get declared as a Biosphere Reserve,” Theodosiou noted. “Its designation requires specific steps and actions at both practical and community commitment levels, as well as support from the state and other stakeholders.”

She added that the benefits for areas designated as Biosphere Reserves are numerous. These include international recognition, the development of local initiatives to boost the economy and culture, and the opportunity to promote local products and services within a global network.

“The only way nature can shield us from the climate crisis is if we protect and strengthen it,” Theodosiou concluded.