From lake to field, and back again

Forty-two years after Lake Carla, in central Greece, was drained to provide new arable land and the flourishing lakeside community of fishermen told to take up farming, a large part of the area once under water is to be flooded again a fortnight before next year’s Olympics. The new lake near the town of Volos, whose waters will be mainly drawn from the Pineios River and supplemented by rainfall, is to cover some 3,850 hectares – compared to a maximum 18,000 hectares before the area was drained in 1962. «Some 70 percent of the water will come from the river, and the rest from rainfall,» engineer Costas Daniil, who heads the Public Works Ministry’s Carla project team, told Kathimerini. «Canals will carry water from torrents that form in the area during the winter to the lake.» «The initial delivery date was in September 2002, however, there were long delays due to archaeological excavations in the area,» he added. The new delivery date has been set for July 31, 2004, 13 days before the opening ceremony in Athens for the Summer Olympics. Environmentalists hope the revived lake will become a significant new habitat for waterbirds and other wildlife, while fish will be reintroduced. «The old ecosystem will not be fully restored, but the new lake will definitely help a lot,» Athens Agricultural University lecturer Nikos Derkas told Kathimerini. Carla had an estimated bird population of 430,000 before 1962. At that time, it supported a strong community of fishermen who landed between 600 and 900 tons of fish every year. After the lake was drained, they were given land to farm – to which they never received proper titles. It is now unclear what will happen to those farmers whose land is to be inundated once again.