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Warning Signs of Worse to Come

MY brother, Dr Christopher Solomon, a retired university professor (his quantum mechanics doctorate investigated Einstein’s Theory of Relativity), lives in a recently constructed bungalow just down the road from that burgeoning expat township of Peyia, situated high on the coastal hills near Paphos. He lives with his wife, Marjorie, a member of the ‘Women Write’ team of playwrights, and their four cats, a favourite being a silver grey Sphinx aptly named Baldric.

Fortunately, they were in a position to supervise the construction of their new home, and with the help of their excellent builders ensured high standards of workmanship in accordance with the architect’s plans, submitted and passed by the Paphos District Planning Department.

Their large garden slopes gently down towards the sea, and the previous Friday’s torrential rain failed to uproot any of their many costly shrubs and securely staked trees; unplanted areas had received an ample covering of stone chippings, laid on heavy duty membrane, thus eliminating the risk of mudslides.

But a piece of wasteland beyond became a patchwork of gushing rivulets and mud banks; mud and household rubbish retained by mounds of neglected rubble.

On my return to the capital from ma petite maison de campagne, situated at an altitude of 200 metres, having spent Sunday collecting nuts from my two walnut trees and barbecuing small pieces of pork marinated overnight in red wine, crushed coriander seed and onion (by the way, how does one remove walnut stains from fingers, and that black trapped under fingernails? Please don’t say I should have worn gloves; anyone can be wise after the event!), I checked my inbox and found an email from my brother.

It read: “Did you get any rain, as we have had loads? I reckon we’ve had about 20cm since Friday. Did you see pictures in Sunday Mail of flooded hotel just below us? I believe that many of the properties on the hills of Peyia are also going to come down in the not too distant future. They are building more and more on the steepest slopes, with little foundation and inadequate supporting walls. The bedrock is also soft and some washes away with every storm.Developers sell property in Peyia with the slogan, ‘Peyia Dream’. It has become ‘Peyia Nightmare’; building anywhere and everywhere, a concrete jungle and no longer the pretty village it once was.Natural drainage ravines, over thousands of years in the making, have been filled in and built on. So-called superior developments look cheap and nasty, an eyesore to any village; ugly blocks that have no gardens or trees, no colour other than grey. How they get planning permission to build such monstrosities is a mystery.

One such has its foundations sitting on a two-foot dry stone wall. In the recent rains, tons of rubble ended up on the drive of the house below.

We have a friend whose bungalow is situated feet away from a towering concrete wall; behind it, developers have built a massive block of apartments. If the wall gave way, their house would be crushed to a pulp. Marjorie reckons she can envisage such a catastrophe, even worse, a domino effect!

Of course, nothing will be done about passing such thoughtless plans until a disaster happens!

Peyia Dream, I should coco!

Bye for now, Chris.”

Every year, during summer storms, there are flash floods in the department of l’H?rault in Southern France. News broadcasts repeatedly blame planning departments for permitting overdevelopment of the region – mostly retirement maisonettes for northerners – trees are felled, land is covered with concrete and rainwater can no longer drain into the ground naturally; instead it rushes down the slopes into the valley housing estates and sits a metre high in the kitchens and lounges of these quick build homes. Residents are photographed from helicopters, helpless on roofs, in rowing boats clinging to their pets or mopping up the day after.

The Roman town of Avignon is particularly vulnerable, situated on low ground and dominated by the majestic River Rhone. At last, the local council, with government aid, are constructing dykes and parallel drainage canals.

The Roman town of Avignon is particularly vulnerable, situated on low ground and dominated by the majestic River Rhone. At last, the local council, with government aid, are constructing dykes and parallel drainage canals.Is Paphos District our H?rault?

Theoretically, everything is relative, even though natural disasters like earthquakes are unavoidable. But some catastrophes are, and it’s time that the Cyprus Planning Departments, their unseen building inspectors and the mayor of Peyia in particular, put their houses in order, at present manifesting merely token resistance to this landslide of unchecked construction. Being wise after the event serves little purpose.

My excellent cousin recommended I soak my stained finger in a mixture of lemon juice and salt. I gave him a couple of kilos of walnuts in recompense. But I was obliged to resort to chlorine; that didn’t work either. Then I scrubbed with neat washing up liquid and finally, white spirit. If only I’d worn gloves in the first place…

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006

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