The Akamas plan - 25 years on…
The study for Akamas started 25 years ago and to date has seen no progress. For all that, the mistake was that the original plan proposed that the whole area of forest and governmental/non-governmental be incorporated as a conservation area in a total 140 square kilometres, with private land comprising 50% of that area. At the time, I had suggested that the study was incorrect, out of scale for the size of Cyprus and was not viable. The surveyors at the time criticised me and reported by to the technical chamber ETEK to seek an apology because of my “extreme views.” Who, today, will apologise for this major failure? Even the municipal councillor of the Greens had joined the attack with a written protest against me, to which I suggested that she and our office staff chain ourselves to the entrance of the Interior Ministry to condemn the state’s inaction. Clearly, as doing so would make us criminals in the eyes of the law, jeopardising any future public office or directorship in public companies, we got no answer to the challenge.
Time has passed and the present method for major projects under the current situation of the economy is the build-operate-transfer (BOT) by private investors. The proposals put forward by the previous government for the exchange of land (who in his right mind from Drousia would accept land in, say, Kornos) or compensation in the form of a 20% building coefficient, access to public road and water was catastrophic, to say the least. This compensation would have cost many millions, even up to 1 bln euros. There was also a proposal to transfer the 20% coefficient to other areas worth more than 1 mln sq. meters. This would have violated local planning permits in areas where the coefficient was only 10-15%, in addition to the damage to listed buildings from the inability of the owners to sell the excess building coefficient.
Within all this madness and considering the fact that the cash-strapped state has no money to pay the unemployed and pensioners, I would repeat the proposal submitted 15 years ago as the only feasible plan, under the circumstances.
There is a misconception that areas designated as such can not be developed. This is wrong – this can be achieved in the case of some development, with respect to the environment and there is a relevant opinion from the European Commission on this. Additionally, did the Anassa hotel spoil or benefit the environment, considering its direct contribution to local tourism, employment, etc.
Furthermore, two years ago the U.K. Environment Minister proposed that areas of natural beauty, such as the Natura, could see some development provided that either the environment of the area is upgraded or the developer be offered to subsidise the environmental upgrade in other areas, through tree planting and other actions in disadvantaged areas.
To cluster areas with common water supply, roads access, etc. and exchange them with properties of equal value. Considering the current values ??as agricultural and landlocked mini-plots with no access, it is understood that the exchange will be 1/10 of the area of ??private plots, but this would be some form of reforestation. On the one hand micro-property owners would be relieved from their current impasse, while cost on the State will be less for infrastructure, probably around EUR 5 mln, and maybe with EU grants, while these properties would be encouraged to develop tourism projects, museums, art schools, and even agrotourism units. of building road access and other services.
- the proposed tourism development projects (not housing development) are completed within a period of three years. The large properties belong mainly to the Archbishopric and the Photiadis Group and both have the vision and the funds to go ahead with the projects. Imagine how this could help reduce local and attract investors to the area in general.
These could include small marinas and fishing shelters for local tourism (such as that of Latchi where Russian sailors frequent), scuba and diving schools, etc. These spaces can be rented on a long-term lease with the execution of the projects undertaken by the investors.
The boundaries as has been currently defined is objectionable. Limiting the forest designation could allow some properties which will create a financially sustainable park.
To current mess of the Akamas project is still in place with highly-paid civil servants doing nothing. Therefore, this calls for a joint venture between the State and individual investors for a BOT-type development. This consortium (certainly not a semi-government body just to place people with party favours) would consist mainly of private investors who will be responsible for the administration. The priorities of the project consortium will be: - To secure resources either from foreign investors or by issuing shares or even from the receipts of the leases and with EU aid.
- The project execution be based on an economic viability study with all the details submitted in advance.
- The consortium will have costs and revenues. The expenses of the various property exchanges will have to burden the state so that it delivers to the consortium and integrated property.
- Assuming that the plan needs infrastructure projects of EUR 50 mln, plus another 10 mln for the operation of the park:
(i) the consortium should undertake projects;
(ii) it be allowed to develop other areas within Akamas park to be able to market them for development or golf courses in order to raise the EUR 50 mln needed;
(iii) The consortium should enrich the environment with intensive tree planting and the prohibition of grazing and hunting in the area, but allowing small farms to enrich the animal wildlife in the areas, such as donkey shelters, breeding farms, etc. that would also attract tourists for hiking.
(iv) as regards the administration, we are all fed up of the use of the same public officials who are recycled based on party favours, and introduce foreign experts on the matter, such as those employed at the Crooker Park in South Africa which is a huge income for the state rich both from tourists and wildlife conservation which can become a model park. This consortium would have some hope of success, as long as the state has a minority interest.
I am sure that some will still raise their usual objections, but they must also have suggestions of their own of how to introduce an environmental plan of their liking with proper funding and considering all the pros and cons for the area and its inhabitants
I believe that with the current “mess” of 50,000 unemployed, the only good thing going for this place is tourism while so much time and effort is wasted endlessly debating solutions that area unrealistic and not financially viable, whereas the Environment Commissioner seems to be unaffected by all these and lives in a world of her own.