Speaking on ACTIVE radio on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Kostas Kadis supported the Forestry Department’s decision to uproot acacia trees from a protected turtle nesting beach in the Paphos state forest of Mavralis.
The Minister said that acacia is considered to be one of the most aggressive species in the natural habitats of Cyprus and that its removal was essential.
He said that the planting of acacia trees in the area is illegal, despite going on for decades now.
Authorities have been aware of the issue for some time and have recently removed acacias from a location around 1 km away from the Mavralis beach, the Minister said.
He added that the uprooting of the trees is part of an EU-funded project and that the Forestry Department has conducted a study on how to restore the natural habitat of the area.
On Tuesday morning, the Minister chaired a Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Department conference in which the course of the project was decided.
“Starting next week, we will start planting species that should have been in the area if we hadn’t planted the acacias,” he said.
Concluding, he said that there are no turtles nesting on the beach now, as it is not a breeding season, and that is the reason why the Forestry Department chose this period to burn the acacias.
On Saturday, Phileleftheros reported that “an environmental crime had been committed during the last few days at a nesting beach for the turtle Caretta-Caretta”.
The paper said that on March 21, Forestry Department employees cut down all the acacias of the area using heavy machinery in a state forest area stretching for about 600-700 metres.
It said that the acacia plants provide protection for the turtles’ nesting area from the lights of the cars travelling along the Polis Chrysochous – Argaka coastal road as well as from the developed area on both sides of the road.
In addition, the large number of acacias that were cut down, rather than being removed from the turtles’ breeding habitat, was burned down causing a dense cloud of smoke and ash over the Argakas community leaving behind piles of charcoal with unpredictable effects on the habitat.
The Forestry Department responded by saying that acacia is considered to be one of the most aggressive species in the natural habitats of Cyprus, that it is considered a serious threat and that its removal was essential.
As an immediate measure to protect the Caretta-Caretta nesting ground, the Forestry Department said that it will fence the area with a special net that cannot be penetrated by the disturbing car lights which have a negative effect on the turtles.
It added that this is not a breeding season and there are no consequences for the sea turtles, other vegetation will be planted in the area, the Department says.