Development of a new sewage treatment plant in Nicosia brought the Turkish and Greek communities together with a new hope of peace and tolerance.
By Menekse Tokyay for Southeast European Times in Istanbul -- 22/04/14
UN peacekeeping troops patrol the Green Line in Nicosia. [AFP]
The mayors of north and south Nicosia opened a new sewage treatment plant in Cyprus, showcasing an example of co-operation between the Greek and Turkish communities.
The plant, built with state-of-the-art technologies to treat up to 30,000 cubic metres of wastewater per day and to provide 10 million cubic metres of treated water per year for agricultural irrigation, will benefit 270,000 residents, about 25 percent of the island's population.
Ahmet Sozen, chairman of the department of political science and international relations at Eastern Mediterranean University, said the plant is an example of the type of co-operation between the Turkish and Greek communities that is needed in all aspects of life in Cyprus.
"We need to increase the number of areas where the two communities share the powers, competencies and co-operate. It is only by increasing such examples that the common people will start having hope and faith in a federal united Cyprus," Sozen told SETimes.
According to Sozen, these types of confidence-building measures are missing in Cyprus. He said the peace negotiations taking place between Greek and Turkish Cypriots are cut off from the participation of the civil society and the stakeholders in all segments of the two communities.
The new plant is capable of transforming the energy substance of bio-solids into green electricity and organic fertilizers. The cost of the project is approximately 29 million euros. The project is jointly funded by the Sewerage Board of Nicosia and the European Union under the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot Community. It is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, which helped facilitate the dialogue between the two communities.
In a speech delivered at the inauguration ceremony of the plant earlier this month, EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule said "local leaders of the two communities have succeeded in putting the needs of the population first to solve the sewage problems of the Greater Nicosia area."
"Faced with the alternative of going their separate ways, they have worked relentlessly for over a decade to pursue this new project for the common treatment of Nicosia's wastewater. This project demonstrates how joint, consensual decisions can take shape and work to the benefit of both communities," Fule added.
With the aim of addressing the chronic water shortage of the Mediterranean island, where almost all infrastructure components are strictly separated between the two communities, the planning of the plant began a decade ago but the construction started only four years ago.
Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis told SETimes that although the project took a long time due to political issues, it is of great significance because it will increase the quality of life in Cyprus.
"By entering into the operation of this plant, not only we have resolved effectively all the environmental problems, having thus improved the life of people from both communities in Nicosia, hygiene-wise and environmentally, but at the same time we have managed first of all to produce green energy at the plant and in addition we are producing two very useful by-products," Yiorkadjis said.
"The solid waste, which can be used as a fertilizer, and the water to be reused for irrigation, are also for the benefit of farmers from both communities," he added.
Yiorkadjis said such projects build necessary trust between people.
"None of us like to live in a divided city or even a divided country. Cyprus is part of the European Union and we all hope that a lasting solution will be found soon," he said.
Yiorkadjis added that representatives and engineers from both communities have managed to turn a serious problem into a bi-communal success, and this project is an example of what Cypriots can do, living and working together.
Member of parliament Birikim Ozgur said from its initial planning onward this project has been viewed as a venue that can enable co-operation between Turkish and Greek Cypriots.
"Since the beginning of the construction of the wastewater management plant in May 2010 it has proved to be an example of best practice of how two communities could actually co-operate on matters of mutual concern," Ozgur told SETimes.
"One can ask if such a practical matter could have a political impact on the Cyprus problem, however more than 30 years of experiencing the Cyprus problem have taught us to carefully value every little bit of co-operation attempt, let alone such an enormous project," he said.
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