Environmental impact assessment for Limassol's casino on hold due to biodiversity concerns
A potentially huge glitch has appeared just days ahead of the scheduled stone laying ceremony for the Cypriot casino resort, with an environmental impact assessment not yet in the clear and the company blaming the delay on British military interests.
The Cyprus government had made statements previously that it would seek to secure the process for a building permit by end of May, ahead of a June 8 foundation stone laying ceremony for the casino resort in Zakaki, Limassol.
But a promise from the government to streamline the process came with a caveat, which was basically dependent on getting the green light from the Environmental department’s impact assessment.
President Nicos Anastasiades and his Cabinet had reached a unanimous decision, essentially laying down a road map for securing building permits for the City of Dreams Mediterranean casino resort by Melco. The deadline was end of May, in order to meet the criteria set by the company’s Chairman, CEO Lawrence Ho.
Despite initial questions whether the proposed area could be cleared for the construction and operation of the casino, it was widely believed that two companies involved in the study could resolve any issues ahead of the June.
But there has been no green light yet from the state’s environmental authority.
A recent letter sent to the department shows that two companies, Proplan Ttd and Envi Services, conducted environmental impact studies on behalf of the company, according to daily Politis.
They concluded that there may be military interests behind the British Base classifying a portion of a nearby area under special protection in Akrotiri.
Early hints at potential issues
During initial assessments, the department hinted at negative environmental impact on the Akrotiri wetland, mainly due to noise and lights.
But the agencies who carried out the study on behalf of the Integrated Casino Resort (ICR) say there is no basis for those concerns, arguing that the ecosystem would be harmed.
In their letter, they say the project would be constructed within an area of 370 acres inside an urban zone dating back to a classification in 2011.
They also argued that there is already activity in the area, mainly agriculture due to cultivation of citrus fruit and potatoes but also noise from farming equipment and 18-wheeler trucks that are often parked there.
Environmental concerns under scrutiny
The entire peninsula at Akrotiri has been described as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and the British Bases declared it Special Protection Area (SPA) in 2012.
But two biologists disagree with the SPA classification, arguing that the British sought to change the area classification for their own military interests and not based on environmental criteria, according to daily Politis.
According to the biologists, Pergnatis and Papastavrou, the same area is also described elsewhere as “airspace zone of the Bases and security zone for transporting military gear.”
The agencies further wrote in their letter that only 34% of the area, or 126 acres, will be affected by the project, adding that there are no protected species in that north-eastern corner of the peninsula.
Another argument made in favour of the project was the fact that a military air strip of the British Bases and radar antennas are also located in the area.
Casino resort viewed as high potential investment
It is estimated that this world-class project will attract 300,000 additional visitors each year, which would be a significant boost to the overall industry which is currently suffering from seasonal fluctuations, with hectic summers and dead winters.
About 4,000 people are expected to be employed during construction of the casino-resort, while 6,500 would be needed to either fill staff positions or work in some capacity for the development, directly or indirectly.
The first 500 job openings will be announced in phases on the site www.cityofdreamsmed.com.cy around April, according to online daily Kathimerini. And as of last week, the first 39 positions had already been announced in the fields of economics, construction, Information Technology, Security and Casino Operations.
The resort will have a gaming area with 136 tables and 1200 games and machine slots, as well as a five-star hotel on site with 500 rooms, meeting and conference facilities, an auditorium with 1500 seats, and areas for wellness and entertainment.
Melco was founded in 1910 and was among the first one hundred companies established in Hong Kong. Today, Melco International has become a world leader in the leisure and entertainment sector with operations in China, Philippines and Russia.
According to their website, the Melco hiring philosophy is “hire attitude, image and potential.”