Environmental impact of removing irrigation channels


Image 1: Irrigation Channels

I remember, about 8 years ago, being fascinated by the system of irrigation channels passing through local villages, allowing water to be diverted to fields. Each field had a tiny shutter (image 1) which could be opened when the field needed water. This system allowed flood water from the hills to be safely directed away from where it could do damage, usually into the sea. Lapta village, about 20km west of Girne, is one place these channels can be seen.

Then a few years later, the building boom started and those concrete channels were seen as a nuisance and so were destroyed and replaced by pavements and widened roads. It was easier to dig them up than it was to build drives over them. No one could see why they would be needed as orange and olive groves had now been turned into houses and 4×4 cars; it was often said, when a villager proudly drove around in a new car, that he was driving his olive grove.


Image 2: Flooded road in Alsancak after irrigation channels were removed

Then, over the last few days, the torrential rain created such powerful rivers through the villages, instead of the channels, that debris was scattered across roads and flooding resulted [image 2]. Water which had previously been safely channelled was now finding its own way, a way that villagers and townsfolk would usually have preferred it did not take. Somehow you always manage to underestimate the power of water and to not realise its potential to undermine the foundations of walls and even those of roads [image 3]. There is even talk of houses becoming uninsurable becauseĀ  they were built too close to the edge of cliffs which will eventually be undermined.


Image 3: water has undermined a bridge

One local also remembers being told by his builder that any efforts to store rain water would be a waste of time as there would never be enough to make it worthwhile. Our own house has room to store about 12 tons of water but we’re already full to the brim.

I know that this recent torrent of water will have largely ended up in the sea and I’m waiting for the inevitable complaints in May when water sources will start to be used up and in June when tankers will start being ordered up until as late as October. Some say that in a few decades water will become so scarce that it will join oil as being a resource we will end up going to war for. Hopefully, the plans to bring water from Turkey in a pipeline will overcome these regular Summer droughts but at the same time let’s hope we don’t become the envy of neighbouring countries who do not have enough water.

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