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State officials must defend local interest, not fight them

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Among the many innovative positions we have recently created in Cyprus, having joined the E.U. two decades ago, is that of a commissioner for the environment.  This is good news and has often been very productive, since the environment is of prime importance for all countries in the European Union, as well as the rest of the world.

Yet, we have the government-appointed commissioner at times writing letters to Brussels and other decision-making centres accusing Cyprus of not abiding by the rules.

That is strange, considering that we have had a major investor in Cyprus who was to pump about €200-300 mln to build two golf courses, hotels and other projects in one of the poorest regions in Cyprus, Polis-Argaka, that would provide jobs for the locals and of course assist towards the recovery of the Cyprus economy during these difficult times.

The development at this “Limni” project, following the then commissioner’s report, has been halted, because of the turtles’ nests in this area. And this, despite environmental plans prepared by international consultants on the subject, indicating how the project could be developed, but with due care for the turtles and the rest of the natural environment.

The same developer has cleared the copper tailings left abandoned from the nearby copper mines that used toxic and cancerous material, with rainwater leading the deposits to the sea and eventually changing the colour of the seabed to a deep red. The company filled the crater with the tailings, planted thousands of trees improving the environment, making it safer to the public.  Yet, the project has stalled, due to mainly environmental arguments.

The rehabilitation must have cost approximately €100 mln so far, but it appears this is not taken into account.

Environment vs jobs

Is the environment more important than the opportunities to the unemployed and people in the rea and the underutilised farmers? Should the local economy not be considered with the serious impact on social and economic circumstances. Surely, a formula could have been found between jobs and the economy on the one hand, and the environment.  For those of us who have secure jobs (especially those in government), we do not practically care about this question, but how about the unemployed people in the area, especially the younger generation, the lower paid workers and the local farmers?  Has anybody asked them what they think of such situations?

The environment is there to help the people and not the environment to go against the major goals of the unemployed and the economy, especially at these difficult times.

The question now is, should such commissioners who play an active role in causing such problems (and whom we pay handsomely), be kept in their posts or should they be fired?

A similar situation came up with respect to the Anassa Hotel, when the very same people insisted on its demolition. Now, it has become a jet set resort destination, often rates and voted as one of best hotels in the world.

Do we want to keep the poorest part of Cyprus still on donkeys?  In addition to the local economy (supply of agricultural produce and traditional local products), the younger generation will also have jobs, perhaps better paid ones, and instead of abandoning this area, now have a reason to stay or even to return.

The very same people objected to the improvements at and near Athalassa park, which has now become a green oasis for Nicosia, full of young people and families, especially those of young children, with Sunday runners a very frequent and pleasant sight.

A big fuss has been made about keeping water snakes at Paralimni (a project which the Cyprus economy could not afford, be it there are many less costly alternatives), while at the same time the Akamas project has been pending for over 30 years, withy the excuse that these are not feasible and not affordable, even though the E.U. suggested that limited or mild development can be allowed. There are so many other projects which are beyond our means and there are no capabilities to implement.

I have written on this subject in the past in this paper and we must learn to considering all aspects and after-effects of rejecting some types of development, including the impact on local employment and the economy.

So, my question is, are those who accuse any government in Cyprus of supposed misconduct, misguided and ignore what’s best for their own country or are they heroes for trying to do things their own way, regardless of the outcome?

 

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