The Solea Valley Irrigation System

It is obvious that the present system is not viable as it does not cover adequately the needs of the area it commands, is highly inefficient and labour demanding making irrigated agriculture uneconomic. The decline of the population in the last 30 years testifies to this.

To solve this problem the Water Development Department carried out a feasibility study in 2003 for a project that involved an offstream dam of capacity 4.5million cm that would be filled with water from the Karyotis river via a diversion pipeline 3.5km long and 700mm in diameter, an irrigation system involving land consolidation, roads and pressurised pipes and modern irrigation systems such as sprinklers and drip irrigation for the lower part of the valley. Water will be available on demand. With this project the water rights will be abolished. The people in the upper part of the valley (villages of Kaliana, Sina Oros, Galata and Kakopetria) will benefit in that the water rights of the lower villages will be transferred to them in the summer and this will facilitate their current irrigation practices.

The dam naturally fills with water during winter-spring. It is estimated that the demands of the lower villages for full cultivation of the area is about 3million cm with modern systems, which is the amount of water extracted from the river presently for these villages, but as this is done mostly during winter and spring with flood irrigation the area is inadequately irrigated.

The cost of the project was estimated at about 20 million Euros in 2003 with an internal rate of return of 6%.

The project has one serious drawback: about 75% of the water needs to be pumped up from the dam, but this can be alleviated partly by the production of hydroelectric power during the filling of the dam. Water will always be released downstream of the diversion for the river ecosystem. Floods in the river will always overspill the diversion dam.

Besides the environmental implications of pumping with electricity produced conventionall, from oil plants, the only other serious problem is the alteration of the landscape by the construction of farm roads especially in conjunction with land consolidation. Evenso, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study showed that these problems are not significant or can be reduced with proper care. The environmental benefits are much higher, including the greening of the area, the provision of jobs and the curtailment of the tendency to move to towns as well as all benefits accompanying irrigation projects.

Moreover, it is a matter of social justice to supply an area that has a tradition of irrigated agriculture for millenia instead of communities without any such tradition that found themselves with large irrigated plots at no cost. Without the project, a large part of the irrigated area will be abandoned (a process taking place already) as being uneconomic. Although the EIA study was completed early in 2009 no decision has been made by the authorities regarding the implementation or not of land consolidation, something that affects the viability of the project as the bulk of the costly engineering works will be completed by early 2012.

The environmental and social viability of the project can be ascertained with certain provisions such as:

  1. the characteristics of new housing is strongly regulated,
  2. terraces and hedges are to be respected as much as possible,
  3. some channels are to be retained and water occasionally passed through,
  4. sensitive areas are to be protected,
  5. old structures such as water mills and churches are enhanced so that the past is made part of the present and
  6. a systematic and in depth sharing of information and consultation with the relevant stakeholders should be made for the finalization of the provisions.

As the environmental study has shown the valley can be revitalised without affecting the aesthetic value of the landscape significantly and the functioning of the ecosystem and that such alterations are within the carrying capacity of the physical and social environment.

What is important, finally, is that an ancient practise is improved upon and the valley is not burdened by the impact of a large dam on the river.