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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Will planned regulations save the Karpas? ]

Will planned regulations save the Karpas?

There are too many loopholes, say environmentalists

EFFORTS to create a national park in one of Cyprus’ last wildernesses have again caused controversy, as environmentalists accuse the Turkish Cypriot authorities of pandering more to the needs of developers and farmers than to those of the wildlife the park aims to protect.

“The law reveals nothing more than a lack of knowledge, a lack of know-how, and a lack of proper aims,” the head of northern Cyprus’ Green Action Group Dogan Sahir said this week of a draft national parks law recently devised by the ‘environment ministry’.

“All the government is trying to do is give people the impression it is trying to do something. It will not save the Karpas,” Sahir added.

The Karpas, a thin peninsula of land jutting out towards Syria, is, despite its beauty, one of the few remaining areas in Cyprus yet to fall into the hands of land developers. It is also a haven for numerous types of endemic flora, fauna and marine life including caretta caretta turtles and wild donkeys.

Arguments have been raging for years on how best to protect the Karpas peninsula, large portions of which have already gone under the bulldozer. Last summer, environmentalists accused the authorities of seeking to develop the last remaining unspoiled part of the peninsula for tourism when it commissioned the electricity authority to add the area to the grid. The authorities went ahead with the electricity project, but sought to assure environmentalists that a national parks law would be devised that would pave the way for the establishment of a Karpas national park. Finally, last weekend, the ‘environment ministry’ announced the completion of a 95-page draft version of the law, which is now in the hands of a ‘parliamentary’ committee formed to go through it before submitting it to ‘parliament’ for ratification.

But environmentalists, who complain they were not consulted when the bill was being formulated, say they are not satisfied that the draft, and the national park that is meant to spring from it, will do anything to protect Karpas.

“Although the objective may be to protect the Karpas, the new law could actually lead to the area suffering more damage than it does under the current Karpas directive,” Sahir said.

The Nicosia-based environmentalist reels off a list of factors that he says renders the national parks law “ineffective”.

“Basically the law gives the park to the farmers, and they can do what they want with it. It also gives the town planning department a role, and the right to designate areas to building developments,” Sahir says. He adds that there will be an amnesty for illegal building that will give carte blanche to developers to build before the law is in place.
“It even allows for people to hunt.”

Sahir’s final criticism is that the decision-making body of the park authority will also be responsible for regulating it.

“Basically, they will be regulating themselves,” Sahir says.

But while Sahir insisted the EU Commission’s Project Support Office in north Nicosia was critical of the bill, such criticism has been hard to elicit. An official from the office told the Mail it had nothing to say about the content of the draft, but that “the proof of the pudding was in the eating”.

“It’s all about implementation, but from our point of view, this [the draft law] is an important step,” the official said.

Asked whether the office had provided input towards the draft law the official said, “We have provided support and comment”. Forty per cent of the €259 million allocated to the Turkish Cypriot community by the EU was aimed at environmental protection of one sort or another, he added.

Officials at the ‘environment ministry’ also seemed pleased with their work, telling the Mail that the law aimed to be “water tight”.

“There will be no loopholes that people can jump through because the law is so detailed,” the official insisted, adding that although farmers would be able to cultivate some parts of the park, it would be “within strict guidelines”.

“They will be able to farm, but will have to use low-impact organic methods.”

Contrary to Sahir’s accusation, the official claimed “the primary aim will be to protect the Karpas”, but added that people in the area would still need to earn a living – something they could do through organic farming and eco-tourism.

“The villagers have to know that it [the national park] is good for them, and that it is also for them we want to save the area, because without its nature Karpas is nothing,” the official said.

Once the bill becomes law, work will begin on forming the committee that will set up and run the park. This could take up to three years. The question that remains is what mechanisms will be in place to protect the Karpas from development till then.



(Source: Cyprus Mail)



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