The wild side of Cyprus


Our Government has finally decided to bring the issue of the conservation of the Akamas peninsula to a conclusion, aiming to begin implementing a management plan which has been approved by the Council of Ministers and put forth to the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, over the next few months.


The future of Akamas has been hanging in the balance for the last twenty years or so. I remember focusing my MSc dissertation on the issue, where I theorised, following groundbreaking research (or speculated, following an opinion poll and several late nights at a PC) that the people of Cyprus might actually be willing to pay for the protection of Akamas. I like to think I used sound economic theory to conclusively prove my argument. Then again, I like to think lots of other things too.


And still, despite my pioneering research, despite the various (good and bad) management plans that have been floating around, despite the protests by environmental groups and locals alike angered by the Governmentís indecision, the issue has been passed around like a hot Cyprus potato. Like the aforementioned potato farmers, the environmentalists and the locals are disgruntled. Iím not too happy myself. Although it may be something I ate.


At any rate, the man with the plan, our Environment Minister, has voiced his determination to settle the issue for the good of the environment, offering land or cash in compensation to landowners with property in the area covered by the plan. As I write, little else seems to be known.


Akamas in the north-west of Cyprus is one of the islandís few relatively unspoilt natural areas. Its grassland environment supports many rare and endemic species, including snakes, birds, insects and plants. Its shores provide nesting grounds for turtles, who return, year after year to lay their eggs on the same beach, the beach they hatched in and the sand they crawled over to get to the warm, watery, salty home.


I remember spending a night with friends on the outskirts of the Akamas forest, on my second visit to the region, staying in one of the Laona villages, after a hearty dinner in a local tavern, then in the morning being shown around by a colleague and friend, driving along the dirt tracks where we could and looking out to see a canopy of greenish, yellowish, brownish hues stretching beyond. Where the road ended we walked, or climbed uphill to admire the view from a perfect vantage point and breathe in the cool, clean air. We returned home in the evening, driving though streets of asphalt, littered with bottles, cans and plastic bags, waiting in the traffic, wishing we didnít have any work the next day, wishing we could just drive back to spend another night.


We didnít see the Akamas in all its glory, we only spent a few hours there. We didnít see any rare species, such as the beautiful Paphos Blue butterfly. But we saw enough to convince us of its beauty and value. And having seen it, I want my kids, if and when I have some, to see it too.


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