- Cyprus Property News Magazine - http://www.news.cyprus-property-buyers.com -

Paphos Tragedy: Who’s to Blame?

RECRIMINATIONS flew yesterday over Monday’s mudslide in the Paphos area, which killed one woman, with her husband still missing.

Politicians blamed rampant development and disregard of drainage management on authorities and greedy developers; developers pointed the finger at the authorities; and local administration washed their hands of responsibility, arguing that Town Planning never consults with them.

In Cyprus, everything is sacrificed for the sake of fast money,” accused AKEL deputy Andros Kyprianou, who chairs the House Interior Committee.

He said local community leaders had responsibilities too, and should inform authorities if they saw unchecked development.

He said local community leaders had responsibilities too, and should inform authorities if they saw unchecked development.

Monday’s torrential rains trapped a couple in their car while they were crossing a small bridge over the Arkokalami river in Kissonerga. Rescue teams have recovered the body of the woman, but her husband was still missing yesterday. The vehicle was swept a full kilometre from the site.

The general feeling was this was an accident waiting to happen, because no precautions had been taken to safeguard the crossing against the effects of heavy rainfall.

“There could definitely be criminal liability due to the uninhibited approval of planning permissions,” former Paphos mayor Feidias Sarikas said.

But Michalis Efthymiou, the chairman of the Paphos Municipalities’ Union, rejected the notion that they were turning a blind eye to the landscape.

“Local authorities have absolutely no control over laws governing construction. The Town Planning Department never consults us if a development is to take place.”

He suggested the establishment of a single body whose task it would be to keep an eye on construction projects, “so that in the future we might avoid such situations”.

And real estate developers argued they were the last rung in the ladder.

“It is not construction companies who are to blame, but the authorities. It is the lack of general planning… it’s out of control,” offered Lakis Ttofarides, chairman of the Constructors’ Association.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a hydrologist familiar with the area told the Mail that a combination of red tape and apathy were the culprits.

“Where major rivers are concerned, local authorities should ask developers to conduct a hydrological study affirming that the construction will properly divert runoff.”

Runoff is water from precipitation or irrigation that flows over the ground and into bodies of water. It can contribute to soil erosion and carry harmful pollutants.

“This is not done, partly because local authorities do not have the expert knowledge and thus don’t bother with such details,” the source said.

In a process that involves the Land Registry, the Town Planning Department, the Water Board and the municipalities, what needs to be done is often lost in the paperwork.

According to the source, the norm in built-up areas was to design drainage for “your own backyard, ignoring what happens in the wider vicinity”.

“As long as your house doesn’t flood, you don’t care about next door.”

In many cases, the source noted, it is difficult for regulatory authorities to intervene, because municipalities have almost total control of what goes on in their turf.

“By and large, it’s a question of jurisdictions,” he said.

Three years ago a hydrological survey was requested for the Arkokalami riverbed, but this came to nothing.

 

“The landscape in Paphos has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. Take the culvert where the accident happened. It was built around 30 years ago, when things were very different.“But strictly speaking, the problem in this case was not development. The riverbed had become clogged with debris and solid waste – trees, rocks, etc. It needed to be cleaned up. It was obvious that the structure over the river could not cope in the event of heavy rain.“In general, this indifference for the soil is bad business for everyone, because you can’t sweep the problem under the carpet and hope it goes away. After all, conducting a hydrological study might cost a developer a mere £1,000, plus another £10,000 for any necessary drainage works. It’s certainly preferable to the bad publicity whenever such incidents occur.”

 

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