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Cyprus: a concrete jungle

Cyprus is rapidly losing soil through urban sprawl and dominating touristic infrastructure intensity and is under enormous land use pressure according to a recently published EU soil quality report.

CYPRUS IS turning into a concrete jungle at a faster rate than its population growth, as soil is being replaced by impermeable surfaces, or ‘soil sealing’ at a rate three times that of the EU average.

According to an EU soil quality report, Cyprus is “under enormous land use pressure”.

The report, says the rate of soil sealing on the island is “considerably faster than population growth” that the authorities have no specific measures or targets in place to tackle it:

“Between 2000 and 2006, the average increase in artificial areas in the EU was three per cent, with figures exceeding 14 per cent in Cyprus… Due to rapidly growing population and touristic infrastructure land use pressures are significant in Cyprus.”

The report adds: “Water pollution, erosion, and wildlife preservation (in Cyprus) are major environmental challenges.”

Sweden remains the greenest EU state, with an overall ‘sealed’ rate of 0.4 per cent and an “insignificant” land take, despite its growing population.

Throughout the EU, the rate of sealing has decreased from around 275 hectares per day between 1990 and 2000 to 252 hectare per day in recent years.

In other words an area the size of Cyprus has been lost to urban sprawl and transport infrastructure, leading to an irreversible loss of the ecological functions of soil.

This is a problem because it means rainwater cannot infiltrate or evaporate, leading to heavy flooding in some areas and reduced capacity for food production.

The report says: “The Commission’s Joint Research Centre estimates that four million tonnes of wheat are potentially lost every year to soil sealing.”

The report proposes a three-tiered approach to address the issue, focusing on limiting the progression of soil sealing, taking mitigation actions to reduce damage, and take compensation measures to partially offset soil losses.

In particular, the report suggests limiting the progression of soil sealing with improved spatial planning or by reassessing ”negative” subsidies that indirectly encourage soil sealing.

The report said: “Efficient protection of soils from further sealing can only be achieved by following an integrated approach, requiring the full commitment of all policy levels, by improving awareness and competence within all concerned stakeholders, by freezing counterproductive policies, by  establishing clear financial incentives, and by introducing binding legal requirements.”

To mitigate the impact of soil sealing, the Commission recommends the use of permeable surfaces instead of asphalt or cement, and building green roofs.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik called for a more sustainable approach, saying: “We rely on soils for some fundamental ecosystem services, and without them life on our planet would grind to a halt”.

Potocnik added that this does not mean halting economic development or the upgrading of infrastructures.

Further Reading

Overview of best practices for limiting soil sealing or mitigating its effects in EU-27 by Gundula Prokop, Heide Jobstmann and Arnulf Schönbauer Environment Agency Austria

Readers' comments

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  • mikey be says:

    Does anyone think anybody in government here even possesses the mental capacity to understand these environmental issues?

  • dimitri says:

    hmmmm just drive by the Souni Zanjia area and see all the pines that were burnt down to make way for cutting plots as they say in Greek, scandalous!

  • Mike says:

    Be under no illusions, the Cypriot developer lobby will also concrete over the Akamas and any other spare green site if they thought they could make a quick buck.

    The last thing to be concreted over probably will be grandmothers grave but even that will be done if it provides a sale.

    There is no end to the concrete being poured onto this pleasant land and it is suffocating whilst so called deputies make up ridiculous statements, which no one with any degree of intelligence believes, in order to appease and pacify the majority. It will never end as long as money is the prime motivator and holy grail. I wonder just how long it will be when an icon is replaced by a painting of a euro as it seems to be worshipped just as much.

  • Richard says:

    So much for the “plan for sustainable tourism” published a few years back.

    Given how they manage everything else out there though – are we surprised?

  • jon frazer says:

    In the light of the above report, and especially the environmental degradation here in Cyprus, the recent FIABCI World Congress held in Paphos would seem to be an attempt to encourage yet more of the same damage.

    If you care to refer back to the article about the congress, and cut through the hype, the promotion was largely an attempt to attract further building investment into Cyprus.

    Does anyone really believe that the “powers that be” will do things any differently henceforth in terms of addressing environmental concerns, including water shortage, or the prompt issuing of title deeds? What about the numerous abandoned projects littering the landscape?

  • Dee says:

    I hope this is brought to the attention of those who are about to ‘re-seal’ Nicosia.

    Future generations of Cypriots will curse the ignorance and arrogance of their grandfathers.

  • dimitri says:

    Gotta give locals credit though trees maybe chopped down to make way for developments, but the ‘average’ Cypriot is all for claiming the pavement outside his/her property and digging out paving slabs and planting all sorts of trees….regardless of whether or not the pavement now becomes inaccessible to pedestrians due to this…..sometimes i want to cry sometimes laugh….

  • Andrew says:

    Homes get built without any consideration whatsoever for the management of surface water. It is simply allowed to run off and cause flooding.

    Maybe one day there will be proper and accountable building inspections. Surface rainwater from buildings should be taken into a suitable soak away or captured for irrigation. It is not rocket science. It is respect for the environment. Sadly as always greed takes precedence.

    While we are at it, why are they concreting over the missing palm trees on the new Paphos sea front?

  • dimitri says:

    this really really upsets me, and although i have seen quite a few newly designated areas with saplings planted in them, this does not quite make up for all the matures trees cut down in order to allow property building…..i think the government. should allow home-owners to build up and remove the cap in place fro how far up you can build…..

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