Fish and birds wanted to revitalize ecosystem of Magnesia’s Lake Karla

A year from now the map of the prefecture of Magnesia will have to be redrawn to include a «new» lake that is about to appear near Volos. Of course, the lake is not exactly new, but will be created on the site of what was 40 years ago the lake of Karla, or Volvi, which dried up in 1962 when a 10-kilometer-long tunnel was opened up, channeling the water into the Pagasitic Gulf. The new lake will measure approximately 3,850 hectares. According to Nikos Derkas, a lecturer at the Agriculture University’s department of natural resources management and agricultural engineering, the reflooding will not restore the previous ecosystem but will definitely «improve it a great deal.» A 9-meter-high bank forms the new lakeside, in which there will be islets to serve as bird sanctuaries, and fish will be introduced into the lake. The original lake’s water level was changeable, according to the season, ranging from 4,500 to 18,000 hectares, and stretched across the prefectures of Magnesia and Larissa. Residents of villages around the lake were mostly fishermen, who caught between 600 and 900 tons of fish annually. It is believed that the lake was a sanctuary for some 430,000 birds. Malaria and the need for farmland led to the decision to empty the lake, its bed being divided up between the fishermen, who then turned to farming. Due to pressure exerted at the time, the complete plan, which provided for a «controlled lake» of about 6,500 hectares, was not implemented. Over the years that followed, there was a realization that the project had caused more problems than it had solved. According to Derkas, it changed the ecosystem as well as the local microclimate, causing more frosts. Drilling for water around the lake led to a drastic reduction in the water table. Meanwhile the Pagasitic Gulf, into which the water that would have entered the lake subsequently flowed, became badly polluted with the pesticides and chemical fertilizers used on farms. Four decades after the lake was emptied, a decision was made to implement the earlier plan for the lake and to fill part of the original expanse with water. According to Costas Daniil, head of the relevant department at the Environment and Public Works Ministry, the original completion date was September 2002. «There were several delays, however, with the archaeological service.» The new completion date is July 31, 2004. «About 70 percent of the water will come from the Pineios River and the rest from rainwater. Water will be channeled into the lake from watercourses that form during rainfalls,» explained Daniil. The new lake will contain abut 148 million cubic meters of water, of which about 60 million will be used for irrigation after 2008. Still undecided is the question of compensating the 3,000 or so landowners who will no longer be able to cultivate the land that was given to them. These people do not hold titles to the land even though a law was passed in 1983 providing for it. Lawyer Michalis Michalopoulos told Kathimerini that the first suit brought by landowners has already been heard. The court ruled that the State is obliged to recompensate them. Meanwhile, in the ensuing 20 years none of the ministerial decisions necessary for the law to be implemented have been issued.