Following an on-site visit to the locations where the first phase of the Sustainable Development Plan of the National Forest Park (NFP) Akamas is being implemented, including the improvement of the road network, our Foundation identified serious deviations from the legally binding conditions of the Appropriate Assessment (AA) and the Environmental Opinion
of the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEA) of the “Plan for the Sustainable Development of the National Forest Park Akamas.”
In collaboration with BirdLife Cyprus, both of us being members of the Ad hoc committee (a committee for the Appropriate assessment that examines projects or plans that affect or may affect Natura 2000 network areas), we took immediate action and sent a letter expressing our findings and our concerns about our on-site investigation to all relevant departments and the other members of the Ad-hoc committee.
Our concerns, after considerable pressure, reached the President of the Republic, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides, who expressed his discomfort with the photos that were released to the public. Subsequently, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development, and Environment (AGRE), Mr. Petros Xenophontos, invited us to a meeting, along with other environmental organizations, project researchers, and engineers, as well as relevant departments.
Our efforts did not stop there, since the issue was discussed in the Environmental Committee on November 22 and 29. There we presented our concerns jointly with BirdLife Cyprus. Our main concerns include the failure to comply with basic prerequisites before the start of construction for the Sustainable Development Plan of the NFP Akamas and the fact that the legally binding terms set through the AA and SEA processes have not been implemented to the final construction plans, which were never presented to the Ad-hoc committee.
On December 5, 2023, we await the results of the administrative investigation conducted by order of the Minister of AGRE. The investigation questions whether ecological reports and the conditions of the consultations results were provided to the project researchers and whether the final construction plans were presented to the members of the Ad-hoc committee. The involvement of the Auditor General of the Republic of Cyprus, conducting its own investigation, is crucial, with results expected in January 2024. One aspect involves compliance checks related to the project contract and its execution, while the other focuses on environmental control, examining whether the conditions of the Environmental Authority were followed.
Our Foundation will continue to closely monitor developments, exert pressure, and actively engage in all processes concerning Akamas. For us, the issue is not the non-functioning of the National Forest Park Akamas; however, it is a matter of the correct implementation of the framework for the NFP Akamas based on the legally binding conditions of environmental approval, necessary protection and management decrees for Natura 2000 network areas, specific operating regulations for the National Forest Park Akamas, without violations of the conditions, arbitrary construction works, removal of illegal structures, and primarily with the absolutely necessary infrastructure that will ensure the preservation of the natural environment and landscape. We expect the immediate assessment of environmental damage and restoration, the cessation of any works that have not yet started, and the complete reevaluation and redesign of the entire Sustainable Development Plan of the NFP Akamas because Akamas belongs to everyone, especially future generations.