Environmentalists on Friday staged a protest outside the the Environment Service in Nicosia, blocking off the entrance to demand action to protect the endangered Mediterranean monk seal.
Members of the Initiative to Protect the Coast and of Save Akamas/Save Cyprus slammed the department’s decision to allow construction within the coastal area and only 100 metres from the sea, exactly above the natural habitat of the seals at the Peyia sea caves.
The monk seal is the most endangered marine mammal in Europe, with a world population of only 350-450 adults.
There are 14 monk seals off the coast of Cyprus, both adults and young seals.
The protest came a day after the publication of the Environment Service’s report on the sea caves. It was carried out after the Environment Service had already given four approvals and the Department of Town Planning issued seven permits for construction in the area, within the coastal zone, the protesters said.
Between March 2017 and March 2018, the Environment Service had given three approvals for five applications for town planning permits submitted by three land development companies near the sea caves.
Two of three relate to 53 holiday homes, each with a swimming pool, three biological sewage treatment plants and a 5 star eight storey hotel of 168 rooms between Kafizi and Maniki. The third covers six holiday homes each with a pool and a biological sewage treatment plant, between Kantarkasti and Cave of the Seal.
And in March 2019, the Environment Service had approved another two town planning permits submitted by a land development company for the sea caves area for 27 homes, each with a pool and a private road network among other.
The protesters said that the developments were all in violation of the Treaty of Barcelona on Coastal Zones which prohibits construction less than 100 metres from the water line. The two associations said the planned projects were at 60 and 30 metres from the waterline.
The two associations called on the Agriculture Ministry and the Interior Ministry to draft legislation scrapping the current antiquated law on coastal protection and to introduce new laws in line with the seventh protocol of the Treaty of Barcelona.
They also urged the two ministers to issue a decree setting a coastal area of at least 100 metres prohibiting any construction and to take additional measures to protect the eco-systems on Cyprus’ coasts.