How the Turks are destroying the Pentadactylos range in occupied Cyprus

How the Turks are destroying the Pentadactylos range in occupied Cyprus, Vaggelis Georgiou
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Somewhere deep in the Pentadaktylos range is an old tank wedged between rocks and vegetation. It remains in the same place, abandoned, since 1974. It was among the material used by the Turks to occupy half of Cyprus. Today it is an attraction – which moves Turkish veterans – like the ones that the departing Nazis left in Greece in ’44.

But the tank is not the worst thing. The unique Pentadactylos has not recovered from the invasion, because every year it is destroyed by the occupying forces! Initially, the chemical preservation of the hideous giant flag on the Pentadaktylos is the tip of the iceberg in the environmental destruction of the Occupied Territories. A huge number of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot troops have been stationed in the mountains since the 1970s as it is under Turkish control.

The mountain is of unique strategic importance. Pentadaktylos has always been a huge natural wall that did not allow penetration into the interior of the island from almost the entire northern coast. “The very choice of Nicosia, south of the mountain range, as the capital of Cyprus from the late Byzantine years and later, was largely based on the protection provided by the natural fortress of the Pentadaktylos mountain range. “Few defiles allowed the passage of the mountain range”.

The years passed but the disaster continued. In 2017 the former Commissioner (EU) for the Environment Ioanna Panagiotou had published a study in which she stated that “after the Turkish invasion of 1974 the Pentadactylos, as a habitat with all the unique species and subspecies of flora and fauna it hosts, has suffered enormous and uncontrolled pressure from unsustainable activities (quarries, construction, etc.) that have affected the morphology of the mountain range and the natural habitats and threaten the extinction of species of flora and fauna”.

In the summer of 1995, the western part of the mountain range suffered a massive ecological disaster due to a gigantic fire that struck the area. The fire destroyed, in a length of more than 20 km and in a width of 2-4 km, the exceptional natural beauty of the Pentadaktylos – forests and wild vegetation, but also green orchards and other trees. The fire raged for days, but the occupying and Turkish Cypriot forces proved incapable of dealing with it. The Republic of Cyprus offered all possible assistance, but the occupying forces refused to allow the intervention of the Fire Service of the Republic in the Occupied Territories.

A hideous monument made worse by chemicals

The monument of the huge Turkish Cypriot flag erected by Turkey and Denktash pollutes the landscape every day not only symbolically, but also environmentally. But why is this flag so dangerous? Because it needs chemicals to remain there, but also a reckless waste of electricity from a society that really lives in poverty.

According to the study by the lawyer and environmentalist Sofia Pavlakis concerning the Pentadactylos, the maintenance of the giant flag is done by crews coming to the area mainly from Turkey, painting with hundreds of liters of chemical white and red paint the rocky ground of the mountain, so the flag can be visible from everywhere, throughout the southern region.

In 2009 the Greek Cypriot MEP Antigoni Papadopoulou had asked the Commission for explanations for this situation that whether the Commission can and does accept it. “How much respect does Turkey show for the environment, so that it also wants the relevant chapter to be opened in the accession negotiations? and e) What action did the Council intend to take to restore the environmental balance and in order for Turkey, an acceding country, to be sanctioned for its misconduct, both towards the Greek Cypriots and the environment?”

The Commission then replied that it was aware of the Turkish flag on Mount Pentadaktylos and “fully understands the sensitivity of the Greek Cypriot community” while it would “welcome” any initiative of the Turkish Cypriot community to “settle” this issue and Turkish Cypriot community for any environmental damage “.

Since then, however, the EU has given a lot of money to the occupiers. In the period 2009-2019, the Turkish Cypriots received a total of five million euros for Natura alone, receiving vehicles, a computerized fire detection system and equipment for monitoring and managing environmental protection. However, in the summer of 2020, fire detection cameras worth one million euros were almost stolen, causing a big scandal! There are 14 important habitat types in the Pentadactylus, four of which are priority habitats under a Community directive, while the mountain range provides habitats and breeding grounds for many species of animals and birds.

Commission: We will monitor the issue

As long as the Commission gave inadequate answers to the Greeks and money to the Turkish Cypriots, the environmental situation was deteriorating. By 2013, there were already 39 illegal quarries in Pentadaktylos, according to an article in the Turkish Cypriot newspaper Cyprus Today! “Extensive uncontrolled quarrying, as well as the daily movement of heavy machinery, level the mountain peaks and foothills of the mountain range, altering and/or destroying the rocks and at the same time destroying the flora and fauna of the area.”.

Once again, the Commission was asked if it would consider these new criminal acts of the pseudo-state in order to take all the necessary steps and stop this huge environmental catastrophe. “Does the Commission intend to intervene for the immediate recording of all quarrying activities as well as the implementation of programs for the restoration of the natural environment? Does the Commission intend to intervene to adopt practices in line with European quarrying legislation?”

The Commission again, resorted to much of the same. It replied that “we continue to monitor the issue and at regular intervals points out to the Turkish Cypriot community the need to implement appropriate conservation measures and to protect environmentally sensitive areas.” And of course hot European money – that is, both Greek and Greek Cypriot money – continued to flow into the pseudo-state.

The disaster continues, but European money is still flowing

The EU in the period 2006-2020 has transferred mammoth financial aid to the Occupied Territories amounting to almost 600 million euros! More recently, in the summer of 2020, the director of the “Department of Geology and Mining” of the pseudo-state Ayse Ozhur in her statements to the Turkish Cypriot newspaper “Kipris” said that 20 of the 56 quarries that have an operating “license” in the Occupied Territories, that the license has been canceled for 8 of them and that the license of 28 was not renewed. She said that the 14 quarries deal with gravel, 3 with mosaic stones, 2 with building stones, and one with plaster.

The quarries that operate in the “country” have been devouring the Pentadaktylos mountain range for years, wrote the article entitled “They ate the mountain”. “The devastation is very large in a very large area from Sisklipos to Kandara,” the newspaper said, noting that the large number of quarries is causing natural disaster, which is growing daily, occupying an area of millions of square meters.

During the blasts in the quarries, houses and buildings in the occupied villages of Sysklipos, Agridaki, Agios Ermolaos and Kythrea are damaged, as windows are broken and cracks are created in the walls. Speaking to Cyprus Today, Doğan Sahir, head of the “Green Development Group” in the pseudo-state, described what was happening in Pentadaktylos as the “biggest environmental disaster” in northern Cyprus.

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