Oroklini Wetlands Destroyed by Development
An area of wetlands on blue-flagged Yannathes Beach on the coast in Oroklini in Larnaca is about to be completely destroyed by developers, resulting in an environmental disaster, said concerned citizen and part-time resident Costas Agrotis.
The new development is set to create an artificial lake which will be built below sea level. This means that in stormy weather or with tidal movements, the sea will fill the hollow planned for the lake, and salt will enter the groundwater, killing the eucalyptus forest near the wetlands, said Mr. Agrotis, who is a mechanical engineer.
The Oroklini wetlands are home to reed beds and as is usual with wetlands, it is also a home to a big biodiversity which helps control the mosquito population. In general, wetlands are vital ecosystems which control pollution and keep water clean.
"The architects have not realised the environmental impact. The existing wetland which has already been damaged but will revert to its natural state if left alone, acts as a very effective filter, purifying the polluted rainwater through bacterial action in the root zone, and traps, mechanically, trash such as plastic bottles, tins, cartons, polythene bags, dead cats and other small animals." says Agrotis.
The engineer has struggled to get information about the new development from the Larnaca Town Planning department, but was stonewalled until he went to the Green Party for help. He was then able to get the plans for the development, and was appalled to see that the wetlands would be wiped out.
He then got the Environmental department and Water Development departments involved, but the project is going ahead nonetheless, and 30 percent of the ground has been dug up by the contractors. Part of the problem has been the lack of cooperation and strong rivalry between the Larnaca Town Planning department, the Water department and the Environmental department. And it is only recently that the government passed legislation making it mandatory to do a comprehensive environmental impact study.
But the planned development goes against the principles of Blue Flagged beaches, which encourage sustainable development, and would certainly not approve of the destruction of wetlands.
"The existing wetland is a credit to the Blue Flag beach. Apart from purifying the storm-drain waters, it attracts a lot of wildlife, such as coots, ducks and herons, it breeds fish that keep the mosquito population under control and is a beautiful natural oasis. It is nature's answer to water pollution and is the perfect filter requiring no or very little human intervention to maintain it," says Agrotis.
Would Yannathes Beach's Blue Flag be withdrawn if the environmental damage continues? According to Dr. Michael Ierides of the Cyprus Marine Protection Association which represents the Blue Flag programme, in this case, it is premature to say whether there is non-compliance with Blue Flag criteria, and an upcoming environmental committee meeting will shed more light on what is going on.
"In addition, please bear in mind that some of the residents have been campaigning for years against the existence of the wetland as they accuse it as a mosquito breeding ground," says Dr. Ierides.
Is it too late?
Construction work started on the project in February 2011, and machinery has ripped out the reed beds. Now that they are not controlled by larvae-eating fish which shelter in the beds, mosquitoes breed unchecked.
On Tuesday 24th May there is a meeting by the commitee for evaluation of environmental impact to discuss the project in Nicosia. Even though the project has advanced, the Water department still has the authority to stop it at any stage because all channels draining into the sea come under their jurisdiction, says Agrotis.
The reed bed before being destroyed.
The reed bed after being destroyed