Environmental NGOs have expressed concern over the uncontrolled draining of Paralimni lake, one of Cyprus’ most important wetlands.
An artificial barrier made up of dunes was created to ensure partial drainage from the lake’s natural outlet to the village, but according to Terra Cypria and BirdLife Cyprus it is constantly opened without authorisation.
Despite most of the area being privately owned, it is part of the Natura 2000 protection sites because it is home to the rare grass snake Natrix-natrix cypriaca, a number of rare eurasian and endemic plants, and an important breeding site for spur-winged lapwings.
“The main issue is that now is the birds’ nesting period. If there isn’t enough water in the lake, their nests are exposed to predators such as foxes and dogs,” Terra Cypria director Lefkios Sergides told the Cyprus Mail.
But the lake is also the source of water for local farmers.
Conservationists have proposed the implementation of a comprehensive management plan for the water to ensure reasonable and balanced extraction.
Elena Stylianopoulou, senior official at the environment department of the ministry of agriculture told the Cyprus Mail the barrier is opened only with the approval of the department.
The municipality and the area’s irrigation committee need to secure the approval of the department before opening the barrier while the ministry measures the leftover water in the lake, she added.
Stylianopoulou said the department received some complaints regarding unauthorised opening of the barrier, which were being investigated.
“Currently the earth barrier is closed and there is a flow of 500,000 cubic metres,” she said.
However, according to Sergides, this was not the first year the barrier was opened arbitrarily.
A meeting with members from the environment department and environmental NGOs was called at the lake last year to ensure better management.
“There needs to be a balance between residents who want to get rid of mosquitoes, and farmers who rush to use the water before it becomes too salty for their crops,” Sergides said. “We propose creating a committee to regulate the draining.”
The European Commission filed a court case against Cyprus in 2012 on account of lack of proper protection for the endangered water snake, and for “tolerating” excessive water extraction in the lake. The government was called on to take measures that were deemed adequate and the case was dropped.
In a written statement last week, BirdLife said “eight years later, Cyprus seems to have not learned the lesson, as no serious efforts have yet been made to effectively protect and manage the area.”