By Evie Andreou
AFTER years of waiting, local authorities say they finally have enough money to clean debris out of the Saittas dam but won’t be able to start until October, Trimiklini’s community leader Andreas Orfanos said yesterday.
Some residents had expressed concern that the dam’s debris and damaged valves, causing large volumes of water to leak, was destroying the natural habitat and making fire-fighting efforts more difficult.
“The problems began in 2007 after the great fire at the Saittas forest,” the resident said. The June 29, 2007 blaze in the Pelendri-Kato Amiandos-Saittas region was one of the biggest fires the island had suffered in decades. It burned a total 1,182 hectares of forestry land, while causing damage to homes, buildings and farmland.
The debris from the fire damaged the dam’s valves which control water flow resulting in large volumes of water leaking from the reservoir.
According to Orfanos, the amount of debris takes up half of the reservoir’s capacity.
“The dam has a capacity of 350,000 cubic metres and the debris takes over 170,000 to 180,000 cubic metres; that’s more than half of the dam, thus reducing the dam’s capacity by half,” Orfanos said.
The dam, which was constructed in the 1950’s and become operable in 1958, is used for irrigation purposes by the Trimiklini community’s inhabitants.
“Even though seven years have passed [since the fire], the dam has yet to be cleared, and the valves have not been repaired, causing horrendous consequences to the area’s eco-system,” the resident added. He argued that in the event of another fire in the Troodos forest, the insufficient volume of water in the reservoir would reduce the operational capabilities of firefighting helicopters.
The resident said Orfanos has been reassuring them every year that the work would be done but so far it hasn’t.
The Trimiklini community’s water department is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Saittas dam. Orfanos, who is also a member of the department, agreed that the debris and the damaged valves needed to be fixed. “The money for the dam’s cleaning and upkeep, must be approved by the district office and since there was an internal investigation going on, they waited until it was over for the funds to be approved,” Orfanos said.
The investigation was related to his own election, with some community council members claiming a lack of transparency with regards to the poll. He said every time the interior ministry ruled there had been no foul play, the council continued submitting allegations.
“Now that the case is over, we are being given the funds to proceed with the necessary works at the dam,” Orfanos said.
The reason they have to wait until October is to prevent further water losses during the summer period. Orfanos said if the valves were opened to clean out the debris, more water would be lost.
“We cannot do these works in the summer, we need the water, and we cannot empty the dam,” Orfanos said. This year’s low rainfall, combined with the amount of space taken up by the debris itself, meant levels had dropped significantly, and they needed all they had, he said.