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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Odysseus is furious about the handling of the Akamas matter – The Conclusion of the Administrative Investigation…

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 Eξαλλος ο Οδυσσ Εας για χειρισμοΙς στο θΕμα του Α&kappa Αμα - Το Πόρισμα τorς Διοικητικorς Eρε&upsilon ;νας...

The Auditor General said that his Service has decided to conduct an audit on compliance with the conditions of the special ecological assessment in Akamas.

The completion and submission of the conclusion of the administrative investigation conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment on the works to improve the road network within the Akama National Forest Park was requested on Wednesday by the Parliamentary Committee for the Environment, during a session on the need to ensure the protection of the natural environment of Akamas in the proposed Local Plan.

The session was held in the presence of the competent Minister, Maria Panagiotou, and the Auditor General, Odysseus Michaelides. The members of the Commission also requested the continuation of the work, as soon as possible, respecting the conditions of the supplementary special ecological assessment, as well as a clear timetable for their completion.

In her introductory intervention, Mrs. Panagiotou he said that the Government's priority is to highlight the natural wealth of Akamas, within the framework of the sustainable management plan, and that the projects are done without impact on the environment, and without delays.

He added that after December 2023, experts from Greece, a representative of ETEK and a special expert of ETEK on road construction issues worked to draw up a supplementary environmental assessment report, which will, he said, be a signpost for the first phase projects, which are now improving their environmental footprint, and an open tender will follow.

He also said that the re-evaluation of the rest of Akama's projects and operations has begun, with three months to complete, based on expertise and discussion with organizations and communities, with the aim of getting the projects right. He added that many site visits have already been made to Akamas.

According to Mrs. Panagiotou, in its opinion, the Legal Service indicated that for projects concerning wooded areas, the competent authority is the Department of Forestry. He added that these will be carried out under strong technical and environmental supervision led by a civil engineer seconded from the Department of Public Works, in collaboration with a four-person project team to solve problems, and with the help of a four-person steering committee to facilitate the management of work execution issues. , which will meet at least once a month.

He also spoke of an immediate resumption of the work for the safe movement of visitors on April 2 and its completion before the first week of May, while regarding the overall planning, he said that a realistic timetable will be ready in June when the matter returns to the Cabinet and a re-evaluation will be done, so that there are no delays and the projects do not cause environmental impacts.

He added that he will proceed with a proposal for an amending bill with the addition of a provision for the mandatory hiring of an environmental expert, for projects within or near Natura areas.

He also said that he has instructed the formation of teams to complete all pending decrees within a certain time frame, including the one on the Akama Peninsula, and has proceeded to establish an environmental consultation with the participation of environmental organizations with the aim of increasing dialogue and submitting specific suggestions from members of the ad hoc committee on Akamas to improve the procedures.

For his part, the Auditor General said that the Service decided to carry out an audit to ensure compliance with the conditions of the special ecological assessment in Akamas, while after the suspension of the works, the audit that EY intends to carry out is whether they have been complied with the conditions or not, if there were irreversible damages, the costs of the failures and who is responsible for these developments.

He added that this investigation cannot be started due to non-receipt by EY of the administrative of an investigation carried out by the Ministry, which, as he said, is an obstacle to the work of the Service.

He also said that due to the new measures that refer to abandoned work, preliminary work will be done to collect data without requiring the administrative investigation, as well as an estimate of costs.

According to Mr. Michaelidis, the whole case results in a contract, where the CD with contracting authority the Forestry Department entered into a contract with a contractor, who will claim compensation for the delays, at the time when the project should have been received in December 2023, presenting a delay due to the fault of the same contractor .

He added that EY forwarded a letter to the Department of Forestry after the decisions of the Council of Ministers, in which it expresses its concern for a legal opinion that there cannot be another contracting authority in a forest area other than the Department of Forestry.

He said also that the Council of Ministers does not have the power to appoint the project team coordinator, which creates a problem under public procurement legislation.

He added that the questions asked by the Service are what was the instruction given by the Forestry Department to the private engineer to suspend the works, which from the engineer to the contractor, what will this mean in terms of costs, when will the suspension end and who are the Ministry's plans.

Regarding the issue of the decrees, Mr. Michaelidis said that EY pointed out in time to the Ministry the problems that will arise from the non-compliance of the obligations by the KD in matters of decrees despite assurances to the contrary, which led to the imposition of a fine by the European Commission and in a referral to the European Court, adding that he requested information from the Minister and whether there will be accountability.

In the debate that followed, AKEL Member of Parliament Andreas Kavkalias addressed a question whether the corrective decisions for the progress of the projects are based on the terms of the special evaluation committee or whether there are still dimensions between terms and decisions, whether the damage will be repaired and at what cost, while he requested that a list of the pending decrees be submitted to the Commission. DISY Member of Parliament Rita Superman said that all sides will be reassured if there is a commitment from the Ministry to complete the administrative investigation.

In response, Mrs. Panagiotou said that the Government puts the protection of the environment at the forefront, desiring gentle and correct projects within the framework of the philosophy of sustainable management.

He added that the decisions were taken together with environmental organizations and experts and how habitats will be restored after the completion of the first phase of the works,

He also said that 38 decrees are pending, for the completion of which a team has been formed of work, while regarding the progress of the investigation, he said that where and where it is documented, responsibilities will be assigned.

The Commissioner of the Environment, Antonia Theodosiou, requested that the decisions move in the direction of correcting the mistakes, suggested the further utilization of the expert of the special ecological study, while also referring to the meeting next Friday of the ad hoc Committee, where a possible review of uses and projects for subsequent phases of the project.

The representative of the Department of Public Works, Elena Sofokleous, said that her secondment to the General Directorate of Environment is in the process of being approved, with her exact role expected to be clarified, adding that a project team has been established with a role in guiding the changes of its project first phase, in order to be consistent with what is indicated by the evaluation report.

The representative of the Union of Communities, Andreas Kitromilidis, requested that all projects be carried out based on the conditions that have been set, while conveying the concern of communities and local residents for potential property losses, arguing that there is an attempt to exclude communities from decision-making.

A representative of ETEK called on all parties to learn from the mistakes made in Akamas for the next phases, to have a design implementation study by the Department of Public Works, in which ETEK is willing to help, and to promote sustainable mobility to reduce of road traffic, a position shared by a representative of the organization “Friends of Akamas”, who spoke of the need to respect the principles of sustainable mobility, with the parking of vehicles outside the park and mild forms of traffic within it.

A representative of the Federation of Environmental Organizations said that Akamas is a single ecosystem and is not fragmented, and that the directives for the protection of Natura areas are above national legislation.

A representative of the organizations Terra Cypria and Wildlife Cyprus said that the conditions of the supplementary study are in the right direction and should be respected by whoever is responsible, while a representative of the Cyprus Ecological Movement said that fines will be imposed by the European Court due to delays in the implementation of the decrees , adding that it is not clear what the contractor will pay, as it is not only a matter of delays.

In her statements after the end of the session, the Minister of Agriculture reiterated that the Government's goal is for the projects in Akamas to be done gently and correctly, in full harmony with the conditions of the supplementary special ecological assessment.

“We are proceeding with a re-evaluation of the remaining projects and operations, always within the framework and philosophy of the Akama sustainable management plan. All the projects, both in the present and the next phase, will be done with strict supervision and monitoring, both from an environmental and technical point of view, through the committees in the project team and the steering committee”, he noted in this regard.

For his part, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee and Member of Parliament of AKEL Nikos Kettiros said that through the admissions of the Minister herself that the restoration works will proceed, it is proved the great damage, the evil that was done in the area of ​​Akamas, “unfortunately, however no one was able to tell us who caused this evil”.

“There have been at least three investigations, three studies to clarify what was caused, how to restore the damage, how to restore this harm that was done to the environment in the Akamas area, but no investigation shows the culprits, unfortunately,” continued Mr. Kettiros ” to Akamas.

“It is not possible to admit that restoration works will be needed, but at the same time the Ministry is not in a position to tell the society, to tell the citizens who caused this evil, this damage “, he noted in this regard.

DISY Member of Parliament Prodromos Alabritis said in his own statements that the committee is waiting for the end of the administrative investigation, so that any responsibilities can be attributed in relation to the projects that were poorly done in the National Forest Park of Akamas.

He added that various issues arise, such as who will pay the costs of failures, omissions and remedial works that need to be done, as well as any compensation for delaying the works.

He added that the Commission expects the implementation of the Minister's commitment to continue the projects, as soon as possible, respecting the conditions of the additional special ecological assessment, as well as the notification of the administrative investigation when it is completed.

“As Democratic Alarm we believe that in Akamas the environment and man can coexist harmoniously. Respect for the environment, but also respect for the people of the area”, he said.

The MP of DIKO, Chrysanthos Savvidis, said that the issues of Akamas have been a concern for three decades, without making it possible to build some projects basic infrastructure.

“I want to be honest, but also fair, some designed them, others inherited them”, said Mr. Savvidis, adding that the projects were designed during the administration of Nikos Anastasiadis and were inherited by the administration of Nikos Christodoulidis.

< p>“What we are asking as the Democratic Party is a full investigation and that the results of the investigation that is being carried out be given to the public, and that the people know exactly what has been done,” he emphasized, adding that the works must also start immediately, because the more they delay, the more problems arise, within strict implementation timetables.

“Today the Minister gave us some basic information, but we want all this to be recorded in a calendar so that we can help the environment and the communities, which unfortunately have been suffering all these years”, he concluded.

The independent member of parliament Alexandra Attalidou said that we have reached the current point because the essential conditions of the due assessment of the environmental effects were violated.

“Unfortunately, once again we are faced with the results of the improper implementation of the provisions of the habitats directive and that is why we have before us the complaints before the European Court of Justice from the European Commission”, emphasized Ms. Attalidou, adding that the any fines will not be paid by the politicians involved, nor by the civil servants who did not do their job properly, but by the ordinary citizen.

He added that environmental organizations have been warning about all this for years, instead but to be heard they are targeted by a part of the political world, which, as he said, does not want to listen to neither the scientists nor those who are concerned about the place.

“The destruction of Akamas is the result of selfishness and greed, but also the work-oriented and development approach we have for all of Cyprus. We show no respect for the environment, which in this case due to the fact that the area is Natura we should be especially careful. Unfortunately, there was no such approach, and for this reason today we are facing a disaster, which in the opinion of environmental organizations may not even be reversible, to the detriment of the citizens of the country, those of us living today and the following generations, because if if the environment of Cyprus is destroyed, we will all pay very dearly”, concluded Ms. Attalidou.

Source: politis.com.cy

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