I was really excited to get the quarterly edition of BirdLife Cyprus (the magazine of BirdLife Cyprus, as it’s always packed with informational goodies. One article in particular was worth sharing, by Campaigns Officer Eleni Zissimou. I wanted to quote from it, as it details the situation in Cyprus for Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) representing the core efforts to protect the most vital habitat areas in Cyprus and in Europe.
A note of distinction: IBAs are descriptions on paper to signify value to ornithologists, designated by conservationist NGOs. SPAs however are designated by EU legislation, under the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC. Thus, SPAs are legislatively supposed to receive greater protection, although IBAs sometimes receive greater attention because they do not have the legal protections afforded to SPAs.
From the article:
According to the latest BirdLife Cyprus IBA inventory of 2004, there are 19 IBAs on the island, of which 16 are in the Republic. Of those, 15 have already been designated as SPAs, while the Akamas Peninsula is still outstanding. Additionally, there are a further 13 SPAs which today do not overlap with any IBAs. These were designated by the competent authority, the Game Fund in Cyprus, using ornithological data after 2004.
Protection on paper or in practices?
The 27 SPAs of the Cyprus Republic at first glance seem impressive, relative to the 15 IBAs. It is, however, ironic that these areas which are on the whole beautiful and which should be effectively protected, often seem to act as magnets for various developments that have the potential to degrade them or even destroy them, and as a consequence many today are seriously threatened. There are many reasons for this such as ownership of the land, the often not so strict implementation of the European law for environmental impact assessment, the sheer number of proposed developments and finally the apparent general lack of engagement by the Government.
Unfortunately, as with other countries, these areas are often treated as a problem and not a benefit for the future. Despite the fact that all advertisements of Cyprus abroad show beautiful areas, free of buildings and disturbance, i.e. areas like many of the IBAs or SPAs, and that it is likely that many foreign visitors expect to see on the island what they see in the pictures these areas are not effectively protected so as to remain such.
That is an excellent description of the conservation situation in Cyprus.