PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias yesterday lay the foundation stone for a huge development work, including golf courses, at Limni, near Polis Chrysochous in Paphos, and while it is seen to be a huge boost to the economy, environmental groups say works will endanger the turtle population.
The Shacolas Group, the biggest private commercial group in Cyprus, plans to develop about three million square metres in Limni, the site of the now defunct copper mines. There are plans for two 18-hole golf courses, a five star hotel, a wellness centre, luxury residences, a historical museum and an information centre on the turtles, cycle paths, and a helipad, among others.
Christofias said yesterday that buying the site of the disused mines in 1983 showed “entrepreneurial foresight,” which will now rejuvenate the area and attract high quality visitors.
“Works such as the one here in Limni are crucially important for the island under these harsh financial circumstances. We hope that such development works give the Cyprus economy a push,” Christofias said.
The man behind the project, Nicos Shacolas, said he was very touched to be developing a beautiful area with the support of local stakeholders. He said he would put together a small “viable” airline to serve Paphos, and nurture the development.
But despite statements that the natural environment was being protected, the Green party warned yesterday that the works would impact the breeding sites of the loggerhead turtle.Thousands of turtles come to breed in the area, with many laying their nests across a 13km long coastline stretch in the Polis-Yialia region, part of the EU’s NATURA 2000 protection network.
Non-governmental organisation Terra Cypria raised concerns with the European Commission in a 2011 report, warning that the width of the protected coastal area was not enough to protect the turtles. The width was on average 100 metres instead of 500 metres as it was originally proposed, the conservation group said. Terra Cypria said the turtles could not be protected because the protected site was too small, measures to protect the environment were inadequate, and because of plans to build golf courses and luxury villas.
A range of issues arise from major development works of that size as human activity inevitably impinges on the environment, said environment commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou. Golf courses require huge qualities of water, the use of herbicides which raises worries over groundwater pollution, and building luxury residences is an added burden on the environment, Theopemptou said.
But stakeholders, including the local authorities, have hailed growth. Polis Chrysochous mayor, Angelos Georgiou, said yesterday that the Limni project would create hundreds of job positions, attract businesses and revitalise tourism, adding that the natural environment would be protected.
A 2005 law regulating the impact from development in environmentally or historically important sites allows private entities undertaking a proposed work to also undertake the required study on the environmental impact. This lets private companies to choose who will conduct the study; however the law does not specify punishment procedures in the case a study is faulty.