The government is moving to attract strategic investors by allowing them to create artificial reefs, Phileleftheros reported today.
This proposal is contained in new regulations submitted to Parliament by the Minister of Agriculture.
The regulations were reviewed yesterday by the House Environment Committee and were strongly supported by the Ministries of Agriculture, Interior and Foreign Affairs.
The creation of artificial reefs is also supported by the CTO, as it can lead to the development of diving tourism, said a memorandum submitted to Parliament by Tourism director Michalis Metaxas.
Head of the Tourism Development Service of the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism Michalis Chailis, said that interest in diving tourism has been increasing recently, especially at the shipwreck MS Zenobia.
“We were approached by businessmen who said that they are interested in this kind of investment. They told us that €600,000 will be needed only for the sinking of a ship to create an artificial reef,” he said.
Chailis urged the Environment Committee to adopt “minimum environmental protection laws in order to avoid obstructing economic development.”
Environment Department official Demetris Koutroukides said that according to the law, it is not mandatory to conduct environmental reports on artificial reefs. However, his department should be asked to weigh in, he added.
The discussion prompted the response of some Environment Committee members who argued that regulations on artificial reefs should not be put in place before the completion of a Marine Spatial Planning bill, due 2021.
Marina Pelikou, legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry said that authorities are not waiting for the bill to be completed because they do not want already-planned projects to be caught up in the process until 2021.
Environmental NGO Terra Cypria disagreed, saying that discussion for creating artificial reefs and other projects should wait until the Marine Spatial Planning bill is completed, according to spokeswoman Panayiota Koutsofta. Terra Cypria does not support the proposed ‘privatisation’ as the sea is a public good, she added.
The House Environment Committee will decide whether the regulations will be voted on or rejected on October 10.