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Limassol boom gives way to eco concerns

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Authorities in Limassol are pooling their resources to respond to growing fears over the environmental impact of unprecedented development in the past decade such as mushrooming luxury towers and shipping activities.

Limassol Municipality has joined forces with Frederick University’s Maritime Department to form the Blue Limassol Forum, to study and propose solutions to possible environmental impacts of the recent growth.

Limassol is dependent on coastal tourism, the international business community and particularly the shipping sector, but as these sectors grow, they carry potential environmental hazards, said Frederick University professor Angelos Menelaou.

“While contributing to the town’s development, new hotels, the port and marina, along with the more recent building developments are also core factors influencing the sustainability of coastal waters, beaches and ultimately the natural environment and well-being of citizens,” said Menelaou.

Stressing that Limassol’s blue growth should be sustainable, Menelaou argued that a rigorous, science-based, assessment of the Limassol masterplan is needed while taking into consideration public opinion.

“Finding ways of balancing the town’s economic growth with long-term environmental sustainability, is of paramount importance.”

Recently, Frederick University and the Municipality of Limassol held the first annual forum entitled “Blue Limassol: Sustainable Coastal, Marine & Maritime Environment” in the form of a webinar due to COVID-19.

“The webinar attracted a lot of attention and provided an opportunity for Frederick University to utilise technological tools to run a survey with the participation of 500 Limassol residents that captures opinions on important aspects that concern us all.”

“As the Blue Limassol Forum initiative developed, ascertaining the opinions of citizens were considered critical and their input regarding sustainable growth and environmental impacts.”

A structured questionnaire was designed, and the survey conducted online.

“The response to our initiative has been overwhelming with over 500 people participating in the survey”.

The survey was presented at a recent press conference by Limassol Mayor Nicos Nicolaides and Menelaou.

The survey revealed that citizen’s main concern with development growth in the city is related to the quality of the coastal waters and beaches which Limassol residents feel has been adversely affected.

“The findings are consistent with the view that the main perceived benefit of a well-functioning eco-system for Limassol residents is the facilitation of aquatic recreational activities.”

Limassol beaches were described as “average” in terms of safety and cleanliness while hotels, commercial ships and the sewerage system were identified as the main source of pollution of coastal waters.

A majority of the participants saw a newly perceived threat of tall buildings affecting the marine ecosystems of Limassol.

“Equally important, lack of citizen awareness was also identified as a major threat to the local marine ecosystems.

The need for increased environmental awareness appears to be strengthening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The survey also highlights the need for authorities to improve enforcement and efficiency of policing.

“They have also asserted that both media coverage and educational resources on environmental issues should increase.

It can be safely inferred that more effective methods must be employed in communicating the structure and roles of environmental authorities to citizens,” said Menelaou.

“It has become clear that locals feel that Limassol should maintain regional leadership in the Maritime Industry and for academic institutions to incorporate more marine-related environmental education to their programmes.”

Having collected the views of Limassol residents about their concerns over environmental risks posed by the recent development, the Forum is putting together studies and suggestions on how to make Limassol growth, blue, green, and sustainable.