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15 June, 2024
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Illegal construction scandal uncovered in Akamas

Fears grow over potential future deviations and environmental impact

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

The data collected and presented by "K" regarding the illegal construction interventions within the Akama Forest, a protected area designated as a white zone based on a plan from the 1980s, prove the tip of the iceberg. The eight cases identified by "K" are considered "few" compared to the initial inspection carried out by the competent services of the Ministry of the Interior. After the newspaper article was published and following an initial briefing from the Department of Urban Planning under the instructions of Minister Konstantinos Ioannou, the relevant services conducted an electronic survey of the area, identifying a total of thirty (30) cases that are considered illegal construction interventions at first glance, warranting further extensive investigation.

According to information from "K," 80% of the cases identified by state authorities are located within the protected Natura area of Akama, where all forms of development are prohibited. These constructions are reported to be non-existent, meaning they were not previously authorized (existing structures). The conclusion that they are unauthorized structures built from scratch is based on inspections carried out by the Cadastral Survey, whose findings were compared with aerial photographs from the beginning of the last century. The collected data mobilized the Ministry of the Interior, and as far as we know, mixed teams from state agencies will enter the Akama Forest next week to verify the gathered information. Wherever there is a match, a relevant dossier will be prepared, and the matter will be brought to justice.

According to the information from "K" last week, the first inspection of the Akama area was completed using electronic means. Specifically, authorized officials scanned the site using the digital tools of Google Earth, identifying thirty (30) illegal constructions at first glance. The data from satellite maps were compared with aerial photographs from 1930 and onwards, where it was found that these were not makeshift livestock structures, which have been present in Akama by the hundreds since the 1800s. In other words, the inspection revealed that these constructions were chronologically determined to have been built from 1974 onwards.

With instructions from the Minister of the Interior, ground and aerial inspections will commence next week, involving on-site visits by mixed teams from the Department of Urban Planning, the District Administration of Paphos, and the Cadastral Survey. The drone of the Cadastral Survey will be used for aerial imaging of the area to collect photographs, which will be utilized, where necessary, for the preparation of the relevant dossier. For this purpose, an official meeting will be held at the District Administration of Paphos next Tuesday to distribute the workload.

The Cadastral Survey's drone, which we were informed has a long flight duration, will capture photographs of each identified construction.

During the initial inspection of the area using satellite maps, the officials in charge of the task found that in several of the thirty (30) cases, the owners had placed materials such as branches or grass on the roofs, presumably to avoid detection of the constructions by satellite. "K" had also identified such a case, which was published with photographic evidence. According to the relevant photographs, the construction's roof had been camouflaged with dried branches. The Cadastral Survey's drone, which we were informed has a long flight duration, will capture photographs of each identified construction. Cadastral Survey officials will determine the position of each construction using coordinates.

Based on the procedure that will be followed after the on-site inspections, a report will be prepared to initiate prosecutions against those found to have engaged in arbitrary construction violations. The inspection of the Akama area is estimated to last for 15 days.

Another equally serious issue with the detection of suspicious construction interventions within Akama is the possibility of future deviations and interventions with environmental implications in the area. Local stakeholders emphasize that in recent years, there has been a significant increase in economic activity in the region, which is believed to be related to the prospects of the area due to the implementation of the local plan for Akama starting in September. Concerns are raised regarding the new map of the local administration of the area and the potential future deviations, fears that are not unrelated to the form of development in the neighboring areas adjacent to Akama from the Peyeia side. There are also discussions about intense activity by a well-known entrepreneur in the land development sector, allegedly behind some land sales in the area, which are considered profitable long-term investments.

The extensive inspections ordered by the Minister of the Interior were a result of the information presented by "K." Specifically, the newspaper identified eight suspicious cases, based on photographic evidence, which indicate that these constructions are solely for livestock purposes. In one of these cases, the owner has even fenced the area and installed an automatic irrigation system for a garden with trees located outside the house. This particular case, as we have been informed, was discovered during the pandemic period and is already before the court. Furthermore, according to information from relevant authorities, the owner initially claimed that the construction was for a livestock structure. However, through the inspections conducted, again using aerial photographs, it was determined that this claim was unfounded. In total, three cases of illegal construction interventions within Akama are currently before the court, and the timeframe for their final resolution is unknown. This is a pressing issue raised by local stakeholders in Paphos, who point out that similar cases in the past took over 15 years to reach a judicial decision.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  forest  |  Akamas  |  construction  |  Paphos

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