Progressive sections in the Republic of Cyprus have intensified their campaign to save the Akamas peninsula as the government plans to facilitate pro-corporate development in the ecologically sensitive region. On Thursday, June 30, Aristos Damianou, member of parliament (MP) from the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), and Charalambos Theopemptou, MP from the Movement of Ecologists-Citzen’s Cooperation (KOSP), raised concerns in the Parliamentary Internal Affairs Committee regarding the government’s development plans for the Akamas peninsula. On June 18, activists from Save Akamas Platform, Cyprus Natural Coastline, KOSP, AKEL, United Democratic Youth Organization (EDON), and others marched in the city of Nicosia rejecting the government’s plan to revise the Akamas Local Plan to cater to private interests.
The Akamas peninsula is an ecological sensitive region located in north-west Cyprus. Half of the territory currently falls under the protected area category and includes some Sites of Community Importance as designated under the Natura 2000 network of the European Union (EU). The center-right government in Cyprus put forth its revised Akamas Local Plan in June in order to facilitate some developmental activities including construction of roads and buildings in three areas in the Akamas. The government claims that this will help the local communities and landowners. Progressive sections have rejected this plan and stated that it will lead to the destruction of the ecologically sensitive region.
During the discussions on the plan in various parliamentary committees, representatives from AKEL and KOSP opposed it as a ploy to serve large private interests. AKEL and KOSP also put forth a joint proposal regarding the Town Planning and Spatial Planning Law calling to “prohibit the issuance of planning permission in areas where a Local Plan or Area Plan is being prepared or amended during the period of submission of written reasoned objections to the Minister of Interior and during the period of their examination.”
In a statement on June 16, AKEL stated that “the party opposes the manipulations of the government in the Akamas Local Plan, which with opaque and illegal procedures attempts to serve large private interests. Inside and outside the Parliament, AKEL will stand against any planning in this direction. The Akamas peninsula is unique and must be treated as such while ensuring the rights of the landowners and the communities of the area. We call on the entire Cypriot people to take action to save the Akamas peninsula.”
KOSP accused the government of several irregularities including allowing hundreds of illegal interventions on the beaches, non-compliance to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of Beaches, inadequate definition of the boundaries of the NATURA 2000 network, failure to establish the necessary protection and management regime for the areas of the NATURA 2000 network, inadequate submission of dozens of projects to an appropriate assessment and impact assessment, among others.
“The attitude of the Cyprus government and president Nicos Anastasiades is politically irresponsible and environmentally unaccountable and destructive,” KOSP added.