Swimming, sunbathing, watersports, you name it. Lady’s Mile is by far the most popular beach in Limassol. And why not? With its warm, shallow and clear waters and its sandy beach, it is the perfect place for a family to spend its summer weekends.
It is actually such a wonderful place to spend one’s time that it could not be ignored by wildlife either. The small saline pools at the western side of the Lady’s Mile coast are incredibly important for a number of different bird species. Breeding birds such as the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) largely depend on them to make their ground nests and raise their young, but also for foraging, especially during the summer months when the Salt Lake is dry. Slender-billed Gulls (Larus genei), Gull-billed Terns (Sterna nilotica) and other bird species also rely on the pools along Lady’s Mile for feeding, resting, and doing what birds do all day. Prepare for their next big migration journey. Even Greater Flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus) venture to Lady’s Mile pools when the water level at the Salt Lake becomes too deep. The Schreiber’s Fringe-fingered Lizard (Acanthodactylus schreiberi), which is Globally Endangered, actually depends on the area’s sand dunes for its survival on this planet. Beyond things with a heartbeat, extremely rare plants such as Lotus cytisoides, call Lady’s Mile their precious home.
So if this site is popular with the people of Limassol and with wildlife, can a balance be struck between our recreation and the species’ survival? The answer is yes! The premise is that we want to achieve it.
BirdLife Cyprus had expressed its deep concerns about a concert which was scheduled to take place without any environmental permit on 23 June at Lady’s Mile, and which would have a negative impact on vulnerable bird species for which the area is protected. Would it be the only activity adversely affecting Lady’s Mile during this period? The answer: of course not! Uncontrolled access to the pools, off road driving, the seemingly infinite extension of the restaurants’ parking areas on precious sand dunes and pools, are only a few of the ways in which the area is suffering a serious degradation. Does this mean that a publically advertised large-scale event, which would attract hundreds of people during the sensitive night hours, and which was planned without an environmental permit, should be allowed to go ahead? With nature, two wrongs do not make a right. They just make things unbearably worse for a species which just could not take another blow and which did not have an alternative venue for its survival.
However, people do have all sorts of alternatives for their recreation. BirdLife Cyprus called on organizers to respect the wildlife of the area and move the event in an alternative venue in a non-environmentally sensitive area. We also invited people to speak up for the relocation of the event. The response from the public was overwhelming. The Kentish Plover’s voice has never been stronger in Cyprus. In fact, it was so strong that it rang on Mariza Rizou’s ears – one of the singers to perform at the concert. Rizou showed tremendous sensitivity to our concerns and four days after our initial call to action, she took a stand for nature by saying she would not perform unless an alternative venue was found. Just in time for the Sovereign British Bases Administration to publically state they would not accept this concert to go ahead. Common sense, respect for nature and most importantly the law prevailed, and the event was finally relocated.
Does this mean that we can rest assured that Lady’s Mile is safe? Of course not! Just a few days after this ‘success’, Lady’s Mile is facing another threat. Four live music events are being scheduled to take place this month in the same area. It is our duty to advocate for the protection of our most valuable natural areas and through our policy, research and awareness raising actions we will continue working hard for the protection and the proper management of Lady’s Mile and the entire Akrotiri Peninsula – the most important and most heavily threatened site for birds in Cyprus. For the latest updates around this issue, please visit our Facebook page.