Almost 2500 citizens have signed an online petition launched by BirdLife Cyprus opposing the construction of a new Paphos-Polis Chrysochous motorway which they say threatens Ezousa Valley, a protected Natura 2000 site, as well as iconic bird species.
The petition was handed over to the Deputy Minister to the President Vasilis Palmas at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday.
“Overriding the findings of the environmental impact assessment study, the Council of Ministers declared the motorway a “Public Interest” project, and a state tender has been opened for its construction, with a deadline of 22 November 2019,” BirdLife Cyprus said in an announcement.
The citizens who signed the online petition are calling on the President of the Republic and the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Transport, Communications and Works to:
1. Cancel the Ministerial Decision approving the Paphos-Polis Chrysochous motorway as a Public Interest project as well as the state tender.
2. Adopt the upgrading of the existing Paphos-Polis Chrysochous road as an alternative solution.
BirdLife Cyprus believes that the Ministerial Decision on the motorway amounts to a deeply flawed excuse that puts an economically, socially and ecologically damaging “development” above any real public good.
The ecological impact of the new motorway
This 31-kilometre motorway, which will require at least five bridges and two tunnels, will cut through an untouched landscape of high ecological value, including the protected site of Ezousa Valley, the NGo said..
Iconic bird species such as the Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata, the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, the European Roller Coracias garrulus, as well as the endemic species of Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca and Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax will suffer a major blow, mainly due to disturbance and loss of a significant habitat.
According to BirdLife Cyprus cabinet’s decision to declare the project “Public Interest” project ignores:
• Recently published opinions of the Department of Environment clearly concluding that the project will have significant negative and lasting effects on nature, which cannot be mitigated for.
• The clear alternative of upgrading the existing road, which was not even considered, with ‘past political decisions’ the only pretext for ignoring this cheaper option.
• The EU Directive governing Natura 2000 sites, which states that consideration of alternatives is a prerequisite before any project can be declared of Public Interest.
• The Auditor General’s remarks that under the relevant law the new motorway is not economically viable as planned, as its cost is not justified by traffic in the area.
• The enormous amount of €70 million for the construction of just the first phase and half the motorway, which does not include the additional cost of land expropriation, and which is much higher than the cost of improving and upgrading the existing road.
• The socio-economic impact of bypassing local communities and businesses currently on the existing route, an issue which has not been assessed.
“Through the petition, BirdLife Cyprus is asking from the President of the Republic of Cyprus to hear the demands of almost 2500 citizens for the sake of nature, the economy and the local communities,” it concluded.