The Akamas plan - 25 years on…

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.



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