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Revised Landing Study for Aquaculture Farmers in Moni-Vassiliko requested by EY

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Αναθεωρημν&eta ΜετΧωοησυτκ ;λιεργητεΜοασιλικζη τη Ε&Upsilon?

The preparation of a revised Siting Study of the proposed project for the creation of land and port facilities to serve aquaculture farmers in the area of ​​Moni – Vassilikos, with the aim of also examining the updated scientific data on the importance of the area for the priority species Monachus monachus, the Audit Service recommends, in a special report published on Monday.

EY also recommends the revision/completion of the Pre-Control Report, so that fully substantiated conclusions are recorded, based on scientific data, about the possible effects (direct, indirect, cumulative) and their importance and that it is fully understood if the impact assessment process in the environment should also include a Special Ecological Assessment process.

According to the report, the Audit Service conducted an audit following a complaint regarding the siting of a proposed project regarding the creation of land and port facilities to serve aquaculture farmers in the area of ​​Moni – Vassilikos, property of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research (TATHE), in the Community Pentakomos of Limassol District, as well as the demarcation of the proposed Site of Community Importance (SCI) “Agios Georgios Alamanou”.

It is added that the purpose of the audit was to examine the criteria based on which it was decided, by the Department of Environment (TE) and TATHE, as the competent authorities, to select the specific area for the location of the project, the reasons why it was not submitted to Due Assessment/Special Ecological Assessment (SEA) and for the fact that the “Agios Georgios Alamanou” TPKS has a shorter length than that proposed by a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Environmental Authority and a member of the competent Scientific Committee , as well as whether the determination of the land and sea boundary of the TPKS, by TATHE, in the east, was based exclusively on ecological criteria.

It is noted that for the said project, a relevant tender was announced by the Department of Public Works on 1.3.2024, with an estimated value of €34 million plus VAT.

It is also pointed out that the environmental assessment is a process that ensures that, before decisions are taken, their environmental effects are taken into account, while the purpose of the Due Assessment is to ensure the protection and integrity of the areas of the “Natura 2000” Network, with the EOA Study to be part of the information and data that the Environmental Authority has before it for the evaluation of projects or plans in this context.

According to EY's report, for which, as it states, it hired the services of an expert in environmental management, in accordance with International Standard on Auditing 620 (“International Standard on Auditing 620: Using the work of an expert”), the most important findings resulting from the audit include three main areas.

Firstly, and with regard to the location of the proposed project, it is noted that the reports of TATHE and TP in their response letter to the Audit Service, regarding the alternative siting solutions of the PE that were examined in the context of the 2014 Siting Study, are vague.

Specifically, considering that, according to the above Sections, “several alternative locations” were considered, EY observed that in the relevant chapter of the Study in question, three solutions were considered, including the selected solution, as well as the zero solution (non-implementation of the project ) and pointed out that the 2014 Landscaping Study may have then considered the minimization of the impacts of the alternatives, but this assessment was made mainly in relation to the priority habitat 1120 Posidonia Meadows, without taking into account the priority species Monachus monachus, since in 2014 the importance of the area for the species had not yet been scientifically established and therefore a revised Study should have been requested.

Secondly, regarding the Pre-Inspection Report and the Opinion in the framework of the Environmental Impact Assessment Study, it is stated that the Pre-Inspection Report of the IT, as the Environmental Authority, does not sufficiently take into account the extensive existing scientific data that underline the importance of the PE area for the priority species Monachus monachus and its habitats, therefore its conclusions are incomplete and, for this reason, questions are raised as to their correctness.

It is added that the fact that, on the basis of a Pre-Control Report, the IT decided not to submit the project to an EIA procedure, demonstrates that the pre-control did not demonstrate significant negative effects on the conservation objectives and the integrity of the protected area, which contradicts the decision of the of the Environmental Authority to impose mitigation measures related to the potential impacts of the PE on the proposed protected area, in the Opinion on the Environmental Impact Assessment Study (EIA), since such measures, which demonstrate that significant impacts arise, can only be imposed at the stage of the process EOA, as mentioned in the relevant jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU (case C-323/17). This weakness is highlighted as a systemic issue by the European Commission in its reasoned opinion dated 13.3.2024.

Thirdly, it is stated that the different positions of TP and TATHE, on the one hand, and of the NGO, on the other, regarding the maritime boundaries of the TPKS, are supported by relevant scientific studies, some of which contain contradictory conclusions mainly regarding the number of sea caves suitable for the Mediterranean seal. Specifically, TP and TATHE propose an approach based on the lactation, breeding and resting sites of the priority species Monachus monachus, while the NGO's approach is broader and includes foraging areas. It is added that in the context of her present analysis, the expert stated that she cannot decide which of the two approaches is more correct and whether the approach of the Departments in question includes criteria that may not be ecological.

In its recommendations, the Audit Service recommends the promotion by TATHE and IT of preparing a revised Siting Study of the project, with the aim of examining the updated scientific data on the importance of the area for the priority species Monachus monachus, while also recommending the revision/completion of the Preliminary Control Report, so that fully substantiated conclusions are recorded, based on scientific data, about the possible effects (direct, indirect, cumulative) and their importance and it is fully understood whether the environmental impact assessment process should include a EOA.

It is also added that the Opinion of the IT in the context of the EEP and EOA should take into account the species and habitats of community interest of the PE and the PTS. Therefore, EY points out that according to the publication of the European Commission “Assessment of plans and projects in relation to Natura 2000 sites – Methodological guidance regarding article 6 paragraph 3 and 4 of Directive 93/43/EEC on habitats” ( section 3.1.5), in case of doubt, during the pre-screening stage, i.e. if it cannot be ruled out, on the basis of available information, that a plan or project may have significant effects on one or more Natura 2000 sites, or individually, or jointly with other plans or projects, the principle of prevention should be followed and this should be submitted to an EIA procedure.

In addition, the Service recommends that the most above Departments to present an analysis of the scientific evidence that led to their conclusions, regarding, mainly, the claim for the non-importance of the second cave for the priority species Monachus monachus, but also for the non-special importance of the area, as a feeding area of species.

Finally, it is reported that the expert also suggested that, considering that the National Action Plan for the conservation of the Mediterranean seal Monachus monachus was completed in 2011, the TATHE, as the competent Authority, expedite actions to update it and at the same time ensure public access to relevant reports and evaluations.

Source: KYPE

Source: reporter.com.cy

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