Cyprus’ most important wetland is under threat

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While Brussels warned Nicosia over inadequate protection of Natura 2000 sites, Cyprus seemingly “couldn’t care less” by giving the green light for a huge new development on the Akrotiri Peninsula, claim conservationists.

This new development concerns the licensing of 78 building plots at Zakaki in Limassol, situated between the Casino-Resort and Zakaki Marsh.

The plots are intended for houses, apartments and offices, on land the size of 45 football fields, adjacent to the Natura 2000 area of Akrotiri Wetlands (within the British Bases).

BirdLife Cyprus said development is situated within an ‘Important Bird Area’, which should have been designated as Natura 2000, for two birds of prey, the Eleonora’s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) and the Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus).

“These protected birds will be significantly affected by the loss of valuable farmland habitat (especially in conjunction with other licensed developments in the area),” said the bird conservation group.

BirdLife Cyprus considers the permitting of this development a “wrong and unjustified” move.

“The procedure followed was legally flawed and bordering on an insult to common sense. The Issued Opinion even violates the environmental terms that were set out (by the same environmental authority) to mitigate the effects of the Casino Resort,” it argues.

Environmentalists also argue that no Ecological Assessment was ever carried out since neither the Cypriot authorities nor the British Bases requested it.

“The terms pertaining to the Natura 2000 site and the project’s impact on the species have no scientific basis since the Ecological Assessment is absent.

“Landscaping plans that seek to ‘offset’ the loss of habitat…completely ignore these green spaces will fail to replace the habitat that will be lost. “

BirdLIfe is also upset that the road construction “contradicts a condition set in the environmental authority’s own Opinion…which calls for ‘green spaces’ to be left on the boundaries between areas such as this and the Salt Lake”.

It said the “mosquito nuisance” to future users of the development will result in increased pressure to drain adjacent protected wetlands where mosquitoes breed, such as Zakaki Marsh.

“One of our most important areas for biodiversity is being lost. Bit by bit and on the altar of short-term financial gain and development, with legally flawed and problematic procedures and a total abdication of responsibility,” said BirdLife.