Uncontrolled quarrying will eventually annihilate the Besparmak Mountains above Nicosia. Large areas of which have already vanished.
The famous five finger peaks will soon become unrecognisable unless immediate action is taken, environmentalists warn.
Over fifty percent of the sand, stone, gypsum and other minerals has been sold to South Cyprus from an estimated area of 2,650,000 square metres of forest and land, which has been decimated by the process.
“The quarrying is conducted in both an illegal and unorthodox way, which adds to our fears that irreparable damage has already been inflicted,” Efi Xanthou, from the Cyprus Greens-Citizens Cooperation told the Sunday Mail.
“The Turkish Cypriot traders have a great price advantage as they do not have any costly environmental regulations to follow and they don’t charge VAT,” former environment commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou told the Sunday Mail.
“On the other hand the government keeps licensing marinas with villas by the water without concern as to where all the solid rocks needed to build all these villas, artificial islands and roads into the water will be found.
“Of course the construction industry is no longer at its peak, but we have the time to find a solution to this. I fear that if a solution to the Cyprus problem is found before finding a solution to this problem, together we will demolish whole mountains in the name of the so called development,” he added.
Efi Xanthou from the Cyprus Greens points out that no one has studied the environmental fallout from the quarrying, so that there could be erosion and mudslides. The endless trail of lorries crawling along the mountain roads pollute the air, damage road surfaces and cause an increasing number of traffic holdups.
Local residents have complained to local authorities, to no avail, about the pollution and having to endure the noise of explosions early in the morning.
“The catastrophe is clear to the naked eye even from across the Green Line. We have taken initiatives to indirectly put pressure on the TRNC through the EU Parliament and Commission and through foreign embassies in the Republic of Cyprus but to no avail,” she added.
Metin Ulug, chairman of the Quarries Union claimed in a recent interview that there had been a rapid rise in the number of quarries although no new permits had been granted.
Estimates of the number of quarries currently operating range between 17 and 36.
The Turkish Cypriot government, has promised to look into the matter, but there is little evidence that it has taken any action.
Environmentalists point out that there are very few regulations covering quarrying activities, therefore the contractors have ‘carte blanche’ to operate as they wish.
Efi Xanthou added that:
“These practices make it even more important that a strong federal government is in place when a solution of the Cyprus Problem is agreed upon, and that the EU acquis communautaire is immediately imposed on the whole island, otherwise environmental destruction will continue without anyone being able to do anything about it. We urge for common sense to prevail and for the destruction of Pentadaktylos (Besparmak) to stop immediately,” Xanthou added.
“The threat from quarrying for Pentadaktylos (Besparmak) falls under this global framework of humanity’s demand for building material,” says Maria Hadjimichael, a postdoctoral researcher in Environmental Politics at the University of Cyprus.
“Thus we need, of course, to demand its protection but at the same time we need to tackle the issues underlying its destruction. And we should not be forgetting that at the same time in the southern part of the island, there are discussions taking place for additional licences of more quarries in Akamas and particularly in close proximity to the gorges of Androlykou,” she said.
In addition there is concern about proposal to bore a 5 kilometre tunnel through Besparmak Mountain in order to link Kyrenia and Nicosia.
“Geological studies for the tunnel project are well underway, the survey has been completed and we are onto the feasibility study,” Hasan Nihat Erduran, an official at the Turkish Cypriot ‘Highways Department’ told the media recently.
“This is a prestigious project funded by Turkey. Our figures show the existing road is unsafe and inadequate,” Erduran added.