It said that it did not oppose development, provided an appropriate environmental assessment is undertaken and that there are no serious negative impacts on protected species and habitats
The NGO said the Akrotiri Peninsula is a unique wetland and is home to many birds, plants and habitats protected under national and European laws. “Now a huge casino-resort proposed for development in the area looms at the expense of nature,” it said. Media coverage has focused on the economic and job creation benefits but very little has been said about the environmental impacts of this huge project on the peninsula and its wildlife which it said have been brushed away, in the name of profit.
According to the NGO, the project is being proposed next to Cyprus’ most important wetland, Akrotiri Salt Lake, and also within an area that has been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and which should therefore have been protected as a Natura 2000 site for its outstanding importance for the Red-footed Falcon that visits Cyprus every spring and autumn and uses the area to roost and feed during migration. In Europe and throughout the world, conservation efforts have been in place to protect it as its population is declining. “A project of this size will lead to the loss of valuable habitat not only for the Red-footed Falcon, but for also many other species, such as the Eleonora’s Falcon, with possibly irreversible consequences,” Bird Life said.
The setting of the foundation stone for the casino-resort is scheduled on Friday, June 8. But according to Bird Life, the environmental impact assessment has not yet been completed and there is not sign of the extra, appropriate assessment called for when developments loom close to Natura 2000 sites.
The NGO said that consultants that undertook the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study on behalf of the casino development company are ignoring and denying the presence of the two falcon species in the area. Moreover, their study concluded that ‘there would be no adverse impact, that the self-contained resort would be built within an urban zoning area and that the part in dispute did not have protected wildlife’.
Bird Life Cyprus slammed the EIA study as insufficient on multiple issues among them impacts on protected bird species, bird monitoring surveys, assessment of cumulative effects and loss of very good irrigated agricultural land.
Another issue cited by the organisation is the mosquito nuisance, which is already a serious problem for the surrounding villages. The mosquito nuisance to future casino visitors will more-than-likely result in pressure to drain the surrounding protected wetlands (mosquito breeding grounds) such as Zakaki Marsh, it said.
Bird Life said that over the last few months, we have been witnessing development ‘popping up’ and illegal activities taking place in a number of protected areas, while environmental assessment procedures are either ‘fast-tracked’ or bypassed in favour of short-term economic growth. The Zakaki casino-resort development, apparently set to be one of the biggest in Europe, is yet another example of this frantic development ‘race’ at the expense of our protected areas and species, it argued.