The Cyprus Mail reported (Thursday, 04 July 2019) an article in the British newspaper The Daily Mail relating to the landslide in southeast Pissouri. When the team of reporter and photographer from the Daily Mail visited Cyprus, they in the interest of balance and fair reporting, contacted the ministry of interior (MoI) for comment. A copy of the statement made to The Daily Mail by MoI has just been obtained from a reliable source. In that statement the MoI asserted that:
“A preliminary study was prepared in 2015 for investigating the causes of the problem. The study indicates that the soil instability is mainly due to the underground waters of the area that remain trapped in land where previously there were lakes (around 1960), and to the fact that the area was backfield (sic) with unsuitable material.”
“The Geological Survey Department, after performing a geological survey, found that the area illustrates extensive excavations and inadequate backfields (sic) in several places. The site seems to have undergone significant human interventions without even compressing or testing whether the backfield materials were suitable, resulting in destabilization (sic) of the subsoil”.
Neither of these statements is true.
Other than indicating that there were “around 1960” a plurality of lakes, the MoI did not state the number of lakes, nor did they specify the size of each lake.
Limnologists (academic experts who study lakes) cannot agree on an international definition of the term “lake”. The consensus is a body of fresh water with a minimum area of between 2 and 8 hectares. However, a single textbook on hydrology by Esko Kuusisto and Veli Hyvarineb (“Hydrology of Lakes” 2000) proposes an area of only one hectare. All agree that the depth of water must be such as to prevent photosynthesis, that there is a thermal circulation and wave action around the perimeter. The combination of thermal circulation and avoidance of photosynthesis suggests a depth of 20 metres, an average of (say) 10 metres.
It is therefore the contention of MoI that “around 1960” the area of Limnes contained at least two bodies of freshwater each with a volume of at least 100,000 cubic metres. An aggregate of at least 200,000 tonnes of freshwater.
High resolution aerial photographs of 1957 and 1963 disclose neither two lakes (taking up at least 20,000 square metres or 30 per cent of the 66,799 square metres comprising Limnes) nor even two poorly filled in lakes of equal magnitude. It appears therefore the contention of the MoI that sometime between 1957 and “around 1960” at least two bodies of freshwater each of at least 100,000 tonnes materialised, and then at some time between “around 1960” and 1963 a community of farmers wantonly (if not insanely) destroyed a precious resource of free freshwater.
According to the MoI statement the farming community of Pissouri carried out the filling with as much carelessness as amounts to negligence but with (apparently) enough care and skill as to ensure that all evidence of the lakes was obliterated. A truly remarkable combination of utter incompetence at filling, and superb skill at camouflage.
The MoI officials failed to explain to The Daily Mail how at least two lakes each with a surface area of at least 10,000 square metres managed to exist at all on land which mainly slopes at ten to fifteen degrees and is porous.
The geological survey department of the ministry of agriculture (GSD) did NOT attribute damage to homes to poor fill or any fill at all. In a letter to Pissouri Village Council dated 07 June 2012 and, in an email, dated 13 November 2018, the GSD attributed destruction of homes to ground instability caused by uncontrolled groundwater and the lack of infrastructure drainage. Furthermore, a senior official of GSD, Dr Kleopas Hadjicharalambous, co-authored an academic paper with Dr Gareth Hearn, Georgia Elina Zoi and others: “Proving a landslide: ground behaviour problems at Pissouri Cyprus”.
It should be noted that the Commission of the EU recently commenced proceedings in the European Court of Justice against Cyprus for failing to construct wastewater management systems such as that which could and should have been constructed in southeast Pissouri.
Perhaps the most logical answer to both false contentions is that the MoI statement to The Daily Mail was disingenuous and lacking in candour. This raises the question, why?
Were officials ordered by politicians to lie? Or, are officials deliberately providing bogus advice to ministers in order to humiliate and discredit them, and thereby destroy the political careers of individuals in disfavour with officials?
In either case, “cui bono” (to whom is it a benefit)?
Antony Walker FRICS