In Cyprus, there are 63 areas belonging to the Natura 2000 network. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of the most valuable and endangered species and habitats in Europe. Although the Natura 2000 Network does not prohibit human activities within its boundaries, these need to be carried out in a manner which ensures the needs of the species and habitats for which an area is designated come first.
However, to our great concern, we are witnessing regular interventions and illegalities within or near these areas, which fail to take into account the protected status of these areas.
Recent examples include the operation of a motocross race track in an area adjacent to the protected area of Paralamni Lake (where a pancyprian race recently took place) with the support of the local Sotira and Paralimni Municipalities, water ski training activities of the Cypriot Water Ski Federation within the protected area of Achna Dam, as well as the organization of the Cyprus Rally within a number of Natura 2000 areas such as Cape Greco, Panagia Stazousa and Koshi-Pallourokampos.
Damaging activities are not limited to sports activities but also concern a large number of other activities and interventions. These concern, for example, illegal interventions in riverbeds such as in the cases of the Diarizos, Xeros and Ezousa valleys. For Ezousa river especially, illegal pumping of water is a serious threat. In many of the areas one can also see a number of illegal quarries, while at the same time it is not uncommon to see interventions on beaches such as those at Akamas, Ayia Thekla-Liopetri and Limni in the Argaka area. Illegal dumping of rubbish is unfortunately a common practice in a large number of areas, as are poaching and bird trapping.
Disturbance within or near protected areas of the Natura 2000 network may have devastating consequences for the wildlife of these areas, since the valuable habitats fauna species depend on are undermined. Unfortunately, the interventions are many and frequent and involve a large number of activities, most of which are carried out without obtaining the relevant permits. Unavoidably, this results to the degradation of Natura 2000 sites, as there is no sufficient protection and supervision.
There is an urgent need for effective management of these areas, as we have often stated. We hope that this problem will be solved soon, through the preparation and implementation of management decrees for Natura 2000 sites.