Feature: Keeping the Coast

The stretch of coast from Kyrenia (Girne) to Yenierenköy (Yiallousa) was once one of the most untouched habitats in the region. Today, it’s seen many changes. New roadways have caused great swaths of coastline to be paved, and large stretches of undisturbed land have been heavily and quickly developed, with tourism complexes shooting up en masse.

This development began in earnest when the 2004 'Annan plan', which provided a framework for the island’s reunification, stipulated that all undeveloped Greek land in the North would be returned to its pre-1974 owners, and that compensation would be awarded in cases where land had already been developed. Ultimately the South rejected the Annan plan by majority referendum. However, Northern developers ploughed ahead in case an agreement eventuated. Since then, development has continued unabated with vast swaths of ancient olive groves felled to build identikit holiday-home complexes and big luxury casino-hotel developments peppering the shoreline.

Development has affected much natural habitat and regional wildlife, and cultural-heritage sites are also at risk. In 2004 the Turkish Cypriot Department of Antiquities and Museums was up in arms after the necropolis of Vounos, near Kyrenia, was damaged: 140 ancient tombs were bulldozed by a private company building luxury-home complexes. Even after discovery, the company pushed ahead, citing its right to build with government permits.

Politically, these incidents have only added to Greek Cypriot concerns over their rights and land ownership, further complicating the most difficult aspect of any resolution process between North and South. For now, environmentalists on both sides would settle for measured, sustainable and ecofriendly development that would keep certain areas safe while negotiations continue to secure the island’s future.