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16 June, 2024
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Road safety concerns and uncontrolled access in Akamas National Forest Park

Neglected road safety and uncontrolled visitor activities pose threats to Akamas' natural beauty

Maria Eracleous

Maria Eracleous

The recent accident in Akamas renews concerns over road safety

An incident in Akamas involving a four-wheeled motorbike falling off a cliff and injuring the driver has brought attention to the dangerous conditions of the road and the lack of protective measures. Over the years, this road has witnessed fatal accidents and numerous injuries, raising concerns about public safety. Despite previous decisions for temporary protective measures, it has been revealed that the road remains unprotected until the completion of the Akamas management plan.

George Neophytou, the deputy mayor of Neo Chorio, expressed frustration over the lack of action, emphasizing the neglect of public safety. The Community Council proposed the construction of a safety net for pedestrians, but the idea faced strong opposition from the Forestry Department. Charalambos Alexandrou, the director of the Forestry Department, mentioned that a tender for road improvements is expected to be launched this year. He acknowledged that the forest road has irregularities and is narrow, with informative signs placed along a four-kilometer stretch to warn drivers. Additionally, the Forest Department has installed a guardrail at a location near Kakoskali, covering a distance of approximately 150 meters, as part of the ongoing National Forest Park project.

The campers

The Kakoskali road's precariousness is just one of the problems plaguing the Akamas area. A recent investigation conducted by K revealed a chaotic situation, with campers and visitors entering the park without any form of control, whether by land or sea. Disturbing photos obtained by "K" depict Agapitos Beach, Amphitheatre Bay, and Manolis Beach on the outskirts of Neo Chorio Akamas, showcasing the daily influx of campers into the protected area. These visitors leave behind piles of garbage, causing significant environmental pollution within the National Forest Park.

We have brought up the matter with the Forestry Department, and they have informed us that these sites are situated on private land. As such, the Forestry Department's jurisdiction is limited to fire control measures, at least until the regulations and provisions of the Akamas National Forest Park are implemented. Visitors to the Blue Lagoon marine area have also highlighted the absence of buoys, which compromises the safety of those visiting the bathing areas. However, sources familiar with the efforts and provisions of the national forest park plan have suggested that implementing some of the park's operational rules would be beneficial for the area. This would allow for better monitoring of visitor activities. For instance, the introduction of entrance fees based on vehicle category has been proposed as an example.

Gone by 2025

The completion and implementation of the Akamas National Forest Park project were initially set by the former Minister of Agriculture, Kostas Kadis, in 2018. It was a project that, according to assurances, was making progress and was expected to be completed within the specified timeline of the end of 2022. However, this timeline was later changed, shifting the target to 2023, which now appears to be unattainable as well. Recent estimates from the Forestry Department indicate that the necessary changes and operation of the park based on the management plan cannot be achieved before 2025.

One significant obstacle to the plan's implementation has been the construction of 14 infrastructure nodes within the park. On August 4, 2022, an open tender was launched for the construction of these nodes, with an estimated value of approximately €6.6 million. However, only one bid was ultimately submitted, amounting to €8.9 million, which was 35% higher than the Forestry Department's estimate. As a result, the evaluation committee recommended the cancellation of the tender.

Despite Cyfield's appeal against the decision to cancel the tender, its appeal was rejected by the Tender Review Authority. According to Charalambos Alexandrou, the Director of the Department of Forests, the tender is now set to be re-advertised in September. The new tender will be for the construction of junctions by the Department of Forests, possibly involving a smaller number of junctions. The anticipated timeline is for the work to commence in early 2024 and be completed by mid-2025. 

[This article was first published in Kathimerini's printed Sunday edition and translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  tourism  |  Paphos  |  Akamas  |  environment

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