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Protest over plans for Cyprus golf courses

ENVIRONMENTALISTS staged a demo yesterday outside the Cyprus Commerce Ministry to protest against the construction of more golf courses, even as within the building government officials hatched new plans for the project, which many doubt will reboot the island’s stalled tourism sector.

The government aims to build another 14 golf courses in addition to the three existing ones – a move that has drawn widespread condemnation. Golf courses are notorious water guzzlers, and what’s more ecologists say the villas, hotel and apartment complexes to be built alongside them will place a high toll on the environment.

By far the most provocative element is the excessively attractive incentives given to developers, for example the relaxation on building ratios. Actually, it could be said that the golf courses are touts for these building projects… it’s an excuse to build, build and build some more,” said Christos Theodorou, head of the Federation of Environmental and Ecological Organisations of Cyprus, a non-political, non-governmental group.

He said a “double crime” was in progress: “On the one hand, they’re going to be building on farmland and damaging the flora and fauna; and on the other, the projects will consume water and require desalination plants, worsening the pollution of the environment.

“I think that with the island in the throes of a long drought, and with scientists warning of increasingly lesser rainfall in the years to come, it is inconceivable that we are turning to golf courses.

The administration meanwhile seems not to share these concerns. Yesterday, Commerce Minister Antonis Paschalides reiterated the government’s commitment to the project, which it insists will boost Cyprus’ flagging tourist numbers.

During the brainstorming session, Paschalides told ministry officials that a number of foreign investors had expressed a keen interest in golf-related land development, including Qatari businessmen interested in building luxury hotels.

But a source from an environmental group told the Mail that even government officials are aware that golf-tourism “is sheer madness“.

Which begs the question why they are moving ahead with this regardless,” the source said.

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