By Peter Stevenson
ENVIRONMENTALISTS on both sides of the divide have warned that if the uncontrolled quarrying on the Pentadaktylos (five fingers) mountain in the north does not stop soon the five peaks would start disappearing one by one.
According to Turkish Cypriot daily Cyprus Today, environmentalists in the north voiced frustration this week at the intensive work at 17 stone quarries across Pentadaktylos, named thus because of its five finger-like peaks.
“The situation is critical. There are currently 17 stone quarries operating across the Five Finger mountains in an unorganised, unsystematic manner,” Cyprus Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats chairman Orhan Aydeniz told the newspaper.
He added that mountains and foothills are disappearing and it was impossible to rehabilitate them.
Despite repeated calls for urgent measures, nothing has been done over the years.
“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,” he said.
Former environmental commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou told the Cyprus Mail that one way to discourage this form of quarrying is to put a limit or regulate the building materials brought over from the north.
“Bricks brought from the north are not always in line with the EU energy performance standards and from this year all building materials will need to carry the CE marking so one way of limiting environemntal damage is by regulating what is brought over,” he said.
Theopemptou added that it is a similar method used by authorities to prevent the killing of elephants for their ivory, by simply banning its trade.
The former environmental commissioner’s calls to discuss the matter in parliament had fallen on deaf ears.
“We can’t allow environmental destruction to happen whether it is in the government controlled areas or in the north,” he said.
Theopemptou said various scarce materials are being extracted from the mountainside like hard and solid rock.
“Ports, wave-barriers or breakers require two to three tonnes of solid rock to be built and most mountain ranges or areas where rocks like that exists are found in environmentally protected areas,” he added.
Environmental engineer Sibel Paralik said she believes an alternative needs to be found to the quarying by using different techniques to obtain the raw materials.
“Nothing has been done, they continue to quarry but it needs to stop otherwise the mountain could disappear and you might be able to see the sea from Nicosia,” she said.
Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou said a complaint letter has been sent to the EU.
“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,” she said.
Panayiotou added that information she has received indicate that there are currently 39 stone quarries operating on Pentadaktylos and not 17 as was reported in the Turkish Cypriot press.