Framing the Environmental Debate of Hydrocarbons

Date: 12 March, 2013. In light of the current dire economic situation that Cyprus has drifted into, the Aphrodite natural gas field in conjunction with the imminent exploration programmes of Total and ENI/KOGAS consortia offer a ray of hope. On the other hand, offshore blocks 2, 3, 9, 10, and 11, in the Eastern Med harbour a rich and diverse marine flora and fauna which merit attention. Local pelagic life comprises deepwater corrals, marine mammals such as the bottlenose dolphin, the common dolphin, and the green and loggerhead turtles. Within the same vicinity lies the Eratosthenes Seamount, part of which coincides with blocks 10 & 11, which is home to a diverse and unexplored flora and fauna.

Striking a balance between the exploitation of hydrocarbon resources and the preservation of the marine environment and sea life is vital to the long term sustainability of the regional ecosystem. In compliance with EU and Cypriot laws oil and gas companies active in the area are obliged to conduct environmental assessments before prospecting, exploring and exploiting hydrocarbon resources. Currently, little is known about the (marine) biology of the area. Elsewhere, such as the North Sea, Norway through the adoption of an integrated management approach has created a paradigm shift in terms of the coexistence of the oil industry with ocean resources. The scheme maximises long term economic value by respecting the marine environment while protecting marine resources, such as fisheries.

Cyprus can leverage on a unique opportunity to set the benchmark in the Eastern Med for the development of a prosperous oil and gas industry in concomitance with the marine flora and fauna. Forging a healthy relationship between oil and gas operations and the general public calls for transparency, dedicated mechanisms for surveillance, monitoring and compliance, and environmentally conscious decision-makers. How this can these best achieved is a matter of a debate. Several vexing matters arise. For example, how does the public trust that the best decisions were taken which factor in the wellbeing marine life? Which guidelines ensure transparency? What measures have been adopted or will need to be implemented to mitigate environmental risks? Should decisions be jointly taken through public consultations and what weight do citizens’ views bear?

Nireas Marine Research– a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)– and Energy Sequel have launched on Tuesday 12th of March, 2013, a debate regarding the environmental aspects of the oil & gas industry in Cyprus. Sensitised citizens, stakeholders and professionals are invited to share their views with us through this on-line forum by filling the form below.


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