Wednesday’s fires have been put out in Akamas, leaving behind an enormous environmental disaster but also allegations against groups ranging from local dissenters to hunters from the east coast.
At least six and possibly seven fires have been fully contained in Paphos district, with morning fires starting in Akamas national park and burning through areas including Lara, Drousia, and Drynia.
A 52-year-old local breeder was arrested Wednesday evening in connection with at least one fire that broke out in the early afternoon in an area between village communities Kritou Marottou and Fyti. It was not clear whether the suspect was accused of other fires in the area.
Three square kilometers of forested areas were burned down according to officials, while the risk of re-ignitions had not subsided by Thursday morning.
But local dissent remains high over government plans for Akamas national park, which includes fees and passes at several entry points, road construction, and a new way of managing the state park
According to local media, officials pointed fingers at local groups from the beginning, citing dissenters who oppose government plans for Akamas state park and could be affected by decisions in an upcoming meeting with stakeholders.
But another scenario emerged later as local leaders pointed fingers at hunters from other parts of the island who could be acting on their own interests.
A suspicious fire that broke out Wednesday early morning in Pelli’s Cliff, in the Inia area of Akamas, was initially reported to have been the possible work of local arsonists.
But an Inia representative says local residents should not take the blame.
Yiangos Tsivikos, Inia’s community leader, told reporters that “if local residents wanted to burn down Akamas, they would have turned the forest into ashes before authorities could even react.”
The community leader said Inia was under pressure from hunters who come from other parts of Cyprus, including Kokkinochoria in Paralimni on the east coast.
“Some of them start fires to take revenge because they believe their dogs were poisoned by locals,” Tsivikos said.
But local dissent remains high over government plans for Akamas national park, which includes the introduction of fees and passes at several entry points, road construction, parking lots, rest areas, and a new way of managing the national park.
Some of the revenue is said to be destined to help out local communities according to plans, but critics cry foul over delays in moving forward.
Government officials say every time the state takes a step forward regarding a specific area of Akamas, a fire breaks out at the exact spot in question.