Drought-hit Greek Cyprus will start importing water from Greece on Monday in a drastic bid to counter a critical shortage which a senior official blamed on climate change.
The first of six tankers which will is due to dock on Monday, carrying about 50,000 cubic metres of water. By November, the island will have imported 8.0 million cubic metres of water from Greece.
"The water problem is extremely serious ... I could even say tragic," Greek Cypriot Agriculture Minister Michalis Polinikis said on Thursday after signing the import deal in Athens.
Scientists say average local rainfall has fallen by more than 20 percent in the past four decades. The island has two desalination plants running at full capacity and a third is to come on line this year.
Reservoirs were 7.5 percent full on Thursday. Containing a paltry 20,462 cubic metres in total, the island's 17 main reservoirs held less than half the quantity being brought over on the first boat next week.
"The Mediterranean is one of the regions most affected by climate change," said Charalambos Theopemptou, Greek Cyprus's environment commissioner.
"There is an increase in temperature and a reduction of rainfall. In some areas of the globe its one or the other ... we have both evils," he told Reuters.
Greek authorities have imposed stringent cuts on households, giving homeowners just about enough water to refill water tanks.
Similar conditions apply on both sides of the island, which is split along Greek and Turkish Cypriot ethnic lines. The water supply from Greece will only cover the Greek Cypriot areas.
Turkish Cypriot officials said a Turkish firm was looking into the possibility of importing water via a pipeline, but they said the studies were at an early stage.
Restaurant owner Fatma Hussein, 43, said she had to spend large amounts of money to bring in water on private tankers every day. "At home we have large water tanks ... we are used to the cuts and this is how we live with it," she told Reuters.
According to some historical accounts, Cyprus was almost abandoned in 306 AD because of a 17-year drought.
Theopemptou said that while Cypriots had learned to cope with little water, more could be done to conserve meagre reserves and to reuse and recycle water.
"We have experienced these problems before. We should have learned from the past and we haven't," Theopemptou said.
Last Mod: 27 Haziran 2008, 14:42