Article Two (of III)
Andreas C Chrysafis
A crime is about to be committed in the heart of Akamas and yet the government, politicians and political parties take no initiative to avert this catastrophe. Like true hypocrites, come election-time they will wake up from their deep hibernation full of promises attempting to win votes so they can continue the charade of – “see nothing; hear nothing; do nothing”.
The crime? A heavy quarry operation in Akamas is likely to be approved – just like the mega wealthy Schacolas Group “Cyprus Limni Resorts & Golf Courses” Project, which has recently received the blessing of the government. The approval of the Limni project is in direct conflict of EU Environmental Laws but with ministerial and presidential intervention influencing the decision making process, anything is possible in Cyprus.
So, do not just lament the fate of Limni in Argaka but also lament the fate of the Akamas Peninsula; it’s about to receive the same treatment at the cost of its wonderful eco-system! This rare Jewel in the Med is about to be chipped away by pure greed in the name of “progress”.
While contacts were made with a number of ministries, government institutions, MP’s and political parties for their position on the proposed quarry operation as predicted, they did what Cyprus is notorious for; none had the courtesy or the decency to reply! It’s as if there is an official conspiracy of silence with instructions to approve the new quarry on the sly.
If this environmental massacre is not stopped, Akamas will soon meet the fate of Pentadaktilos in the occupied area. There are over 40 quarries that operate night and day to devour an entire mountain range while corrupt authorities and officials choose to turn a blind eye to it all.
Ironically – unbelievable as it may sound – fifty per cent of the quarried material from Pentadaktilos is sold to Greek Cypriot mega developers and the construction industry in the Republic! Turkish Cypriot quarries are churning out sand, stone, gypsum and boulders to build marinas, wave breakers and villas by gobbling up entire mountain-peaks. On this matter the Cyprus government and the EU environmental agencies or the Greens have done absolutely nothing to stop this madness; the eco-carnage continues to the present day without opposition! The opening of the crossings has escalated the problem a thousand-fold and there seems no ending to the eco-devastation; closing them down would be a good thing to consider!
The uncontrolled blasting produces an ecological catastrophe from hundreds of heavy-duty lorries servicing those quarry operations: dust, the deterioration of road surfaces, air pollution, crumbling mountain sides; landslides; traffic jams; the uprooting of ancient forests; ugly scars of swathes of land that grow bigger by the day remain as evidence that no-one is prepared to stop this brutality.
Those despicable eco-atrocities are familiar scenes that are happening not only in the occupied area but also in the Republic and under the very eyes of the local authorities that choose to remain silent. The continuing rape of Akamas Peninsula for boulders and aggregate began a few years back and once the new Petrakis Gorge quarry is approved to join up with its sister quarries nearby, the eco-system will receive a fatal blow.
The combined scarring of the region by the heavy operations will prove catastrophic to the pristine region of Neon Chorion, Prodromi, Polis and the entire Bay of Chrysochou. Tourists and foreign visitors will be shocked at the sight of such eco-brutality committed by a Cypriot culture against their own country.
Unless society raises the level of moral integrity of its culture and people start to consider the destruction of the environment as an immoral act, there is little hope but to allow mayhem win over common sense. That’s precisely what is taking place today; no common sense or dignity!
Ministries and technocrats responsible for issuing licensing of quarries misguidedly believe that Cyprus is in need of such operations for growth. Humbug! There are other alternatives but corporate cultural greed and corruption has so far determined the end result.
Communities on the other hand, refuse to protect their ecosystem and one wonders what kind of mentality governs those local authorities. At the present, when the wind blows the Bay of Chrysochou is engulfed by clouds of flying fine dust swept away from the two operating quarries of Droushia and Androlikou. Yet, no one takes responsibility or is prosecuted for such criminality for air pollution. If the Petrakis Gorge is approved, things will certainly get much worse.
Currently, independent EIA studies presented to the Environmental Impact Assessment Commission normally determine the outcome of an application. The glossier the report, the glossier the chances are to fool the Commission and a game of fools ensues where breaking the law becomes the game of the day.
Recently, the Auditor-General revealed that in the decision-making process of government institutions, there exists a do-nothing policy and the law is not enforced because nobody is in charge. Nobody wants to take a political decision and when technocrats of the various departments sit together at meetings, they pass on the responsibility to others and take no decisions.
Dealing with the Akamas quarry application, the scene is no different: officials and technocrats gather together in closed meetings without an in-depth investigation, and instead, afraid to make a decision the Commission relies on the information provided by the applicants themselves or their affiliated independent consultancy firms.
On investigation it was discovered that three separate companies applied for the quarry licence in Akamas. The Department of the Environment had also confirmed that the ad hoc committee deliberated on the environmental studies and the EIA reports given by the three applicants. It has been stated that examining the applications were officers with “specialized knowledge” from the Environment Department, the Forestry department, the Game and Fauna Services, the Federation of Environmental Organisations of Cyprus and the Cyprus Conservation Foundation (Terra Cypria).
The fact that the three companies (not named) were subsidiaries of the same parent company applying for the quarry licence (also the owners of the other two quarries) it’s certainly questionable. Using the same EIA Consultancy firms to provide a report in support of a quarry operation is also questionable.
When the matter was brought to the attention of the Environment Department that such sleight of hand infringes open competition practices under the monopolies commission, the response was quite amazing.
The fact that the three applicant-companies were under the same umbrella of one of the biggest Group of Companies in Cyprus (not named) it was considered immaterial and was brushed off: “for the Department of Environment, it was not an issue raised during the environmental assessment of the applications (for the Petrakis Gorge quarry licensing).
The report of the Geological Department responsible for creating quarry zones in Akamas together with the Mines Department’s report for quarrying activities in Androlikou have both sealed the destiny of the national park of Akamas. Economic and political interests have prevailed over the protection of the environment; the Big Brother will approve it and therefore it makes it all right!
Can it be stopped? Only if citizens are determined to fight for what is honorable and decent by demanding their rights, in the streets if necessary. Experience however prescribes that Cypriots will not do so but especially in a region where local citizens and the authorities support any kind of development in their locality and the Akamas peninsula is one of them!
What happens to Akamas Peninsula depends entirely on people’s reaction. Not everything is doom and gloom and Akamas can be saved but only if citizens take leadership and become vociferous as a unified group that demands protection of their beautiful environment. The mass media has also an important role to play if the Akamas is to be saved or not!
But, when a nation neglects to protect its environment in the name of profit, there is only one ending; it’s doomed to failure!
Andreas C Chrysafis
August 19, 2016