Speech at the meeting of the Leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Political Parties organized by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic, hosted by the Cyprus Green Party
26th February 2014, Ledra Palace in Nicosia
Dear friends, dear Madame Ambassador,
I would like to thank you, on behalf of the Cyprus Green Party, for this opportunity to address an issue that is very dear to our hearts and needs to be attended to very urgently. This is the ongoing quarrying of the Pentadaktylos Mountain Range.
Pentadaktylos is the limestone Mountain Range that separates the Mesaoria plains from the shores of Keryneia. It is engraved in our legends and history, being the natural fortress and observation point from dangers from our Northern shores.
Unfortunately this beautiful mountain range is in danger of being irreversibly damaged. Scientists and Environmentalists have warned that if the uncontrolled quarrying of the Pentadaktylos mountain does not stop, soon the five peaks will start to disappear one by one. Mr Orhan Aydeniz, chairman of the Cyprus Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion and Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats, told the "Cyprus Today" newspaper in November 2013 (and I quote): “The situation is critical. There are currently 17 stone quarries operating across the Five Finger Mountains in an unorganised, unsystematic manner… We can talk for another 20 years but soon we will have no mountain left. There won’t be five or four fingers left on the mountain. There will be nothing”.
Environment Commissioner Ms Ioanna Panayiotou says that information she has received indicate that there are currently 39 stone quarries operating on Pentadaktylos, not 17. According to a news report published in the Havadis newspaper, there are 40 quarries in the northern part of Cyprus covering a total area of 2 million 651 thousand square meters.
Irreversible harm is being done to the terrain and many species of flora and fauna are being destroyed, which are included in the European Habitats Directive. There are various species that are included in the Red Codex of endangered endemic species of Cyprus. Οne of the plants is the national plant of Cyprus, the cyclamen. Another is the extremely rare and very beautiful Ophrys Kotschyi or Cyprus Bee-orchid.
Besides destroying the mountains, trees and the environment as a whole, the dust particles from the quarries that are close to residential areas cause difficulties in breathing and other health problems. Many houses in the surrounding areas are also damaged during explosions, which break their windows and create cracks in the walls.
The Pentadaktylos mountain range was included in the project for the management and protection of potential “NATURA 2000” sites in the occupied part of Cyprus which was financed by the European Commission in the framework of Council Regulation 389/2006, with the consent of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. 5 types of ecosystems according to the 92/43/EC Directive were identified here. 16 endemic species that are not found anywhere else in the world were identified. There are many fauna species in the area, 30 of which are identified in the Annex of the 79/409/EC Directive. 72 migratory birds have been sighted in the area and in all some 160 species that are internationally protected or endemic or rare or endangered species have been identified in this particular area.
In my personal opinion, the ecological destruction is already irreparable. The tragic consequences of quarrying have already appeared through the loss of vital habitats and rare species of flora and fauna are threatened with complete extinction. Certain species are unique and we get to see them only at the Pentadaktylos mountain range. The repousse of the terrain is irreversibly changing and many species of flora and fauna which can be found in the Pentadaktylos mountain range and which are also included in the European Direction for habitats are totally destroyed.
In view of the above, there is a need for immediate action to protect this unique environmental site. I therefore strongly urge you to exert your influence so that there is an immediate termination of the illegal quarrying of the Pentadaktylos mountain range, in line with European and international environmental principles.
Dear friends. This island as a whole is our common heritage. It is where we were born and raised, where our ancestors lived and prospered and worked so that their children could also live and prosper. We need to do the same now. We need to safeguard this island for the generations to come, that will hopefully be born and raised in a unified island, where everybody can reside and work freely and just be. I hope that you can all share this vision with me and will help in saving Cyprus for generations to come.