Topic 1 – Saving the Akamas Peninsula

Laona Foundation / Topic 1 – Saving the Akamas Peninsula

Saving Akamas was the starting point which led to setting up the Laona Foundation and continues to be of key interest to Laona.

The ultimate aim is that the peninsula, including its traditional villages should receive the protective status of a National Park, while at the moment only a part of it is a protected state forest park.

Laona’s concern for the fate of Akamas is shared by other organisations in Cyprus and abroad, notably the Berne Convention of the Council of Europe, and to some extent the EU Directorate General for the Environment. While some NGOs have focused on the natural wealth of Akamas and its geological and biodiversity importance, local communities have always been at the centre of Laona’s concern: how to demonstrate in practical ways that local economies can truly benefit by taking advantage of their natural and cultural assets in a sustainable and planned way. Having implemented the Laona Project (1989-1994) which encompassed five communities and introduced the hitherto unknown concept of agrotourism – see for details of project PRESS HERE The Laona Foundation continues its interest in the area. Until 2017 it maintained a presence in the Visitor Centre at Kathikas village, it participates in the annual district meeting on the utilisation of Government funds and advocates sustainable solutions both to the authorities and the EU.

The well-argued positions of Cypriot NGOs, together with international support, have prevented successive governments from acceding to voracious development demands. The designation of a part of the Peninsula as a Natura 2000 site has provided additional protection for a limited area, mainly the state forest, but it is not sufficiently large to provide protection for the wealth of species and habitats that populate Akamas. The EU was persuaded to open an an Infringement Procedure against the Republic in 2011 for insufficient designation.

In 2017, when all arguments based on the ecological value of Akamas had been exhausted, Laona promoted the concept of the Akamas cultural landscape as a criterion to be considered by the planning authorities in their territorial plans. At the request of the Town Planning Dept (which is also responsible for the countryside), the Foundation, in co-operation with the Open University Cyprus, carried out a landscape character assessment of the peninsula, highlighting the significance of its dry-stone hedges and terraces, its cultural relics and agricultural field patterns.

This data has been put to official use in the preparation of the Akamas Local Plan.

In 2018, on hearing that the EU was planning to close the Infringement Procedure initiated in 2011, without taking measures against the Government, Laona submitted a fully argued document to the EU analysing the grounds why this procedure should continue.