NEWS

Reviving Lake Karla

Over the years, officials have often promised that the dried-out expanse that was once Lake Karla will be revived, but a series of delays related to archaeological finds and expropriation procedures have postponed that revitalization for years. For instance, when work began in 2000, the lake was supposed to be filled again by 2005, but the completion date was pushed forward to 2008. But in early November, Deputy Public Works Minister Themistoklis Xanthopoulos said the main Lake Karla projects won’t be finished until 2012. Contract bids Bids for the tender to bring water to the area from the Pineios River will be held on November 14, while bids for the remaining contracts, such as the one for the wetland in the delta area, will be awarded in the first half of 2007. The contract to supply Volos with water from Lake Karla will be tendered in four months, even though that project won’t be finished until 2012. The remaining projects are the work on waterways in the mountains, work to highlight the environment around the lake and a project to use water from Lake Karla to irrigate the surrounding area. The last project, budgeted at 56 million euros, has not received EU funding and Greek state funds will be required. The lake, which will cover an expanse of 3,800 hectares, will receive rainwater but some 70 percent of its water will come from the Pineios River. The resuscitated lake will have a capacity of 210 million cubic meters of water, but the ecosystem will not recover if that water is used to excess. Former Magnesia prefect Yiannis Printzos explained that use of the water bores around the lake must be stopped, otherwise many of the aims associated with reviving the lake, such as replenishing the water table, will not be achieved. But how can there be sensible management in an area where crops consume huge quantities of water and there is a serious shortage of water resources? Many associate the refilling of Lake Karla with the diversion of the Acheloos River. The Pineios is often polluted, so officials should deal with that waterway first and then the lake. «The original plan for the revival of Karla was combined with a partial diversion of the Acheloos. Otherwise the water flowing into Karla from Pineios would be contaminated with nitrates,» the vice president of Magnesia’s Technical Chamber, Dimitrios Vassileiadis, told Kathimerini. But despite the assurances of the Public Works Minister, the Acheloos diversion has many critics. Many of them refer to it as a crime as bad as or even worse than that of the lake being dried out. There is still no solution to the problem facing those who live near the lake. So far there have been 120 lawsuits claiming social rehabilitation benefits by locals who have been forced to leave areas of the lake where they grazed animals or farmed. «These people have to change their way of life once again. They were fishermen and they became farmers; now they have to adapt again to new conditions,» Sotiris Ganiatsos, a lawyer and a member of the association for the protection of Karla (KEMEBO). «The state must organize studies to resettle them.» Where 1,000 fishermen used to ply their trade Karla, or Voivis, is in the southeastern part of the Thessaly plain, in the prefectures of Magnesia and Larissa. It is said to have been named after Phoebus Apollo, who coupled with Koronida to produce the legendary doctor Asclepius, whose homeland was in the area of Karla. Around 1,000 fishermen used to work the lake, catching 600 to 900 metric tons of fish a year, paying 30 percent of their income to the state, Ganiatsos told Kathimerini. Except for three months in summer, when they didn’t fish, most of the Karla fishermen used to live on the lake in huts. More than 100 huts housed an organized community with elements of both tradition and a primitive way of life. Under normal conditions the lake covered 4,500 hectares, but in winter it covered an area as great as 10,000 hectares. As the lake expanded, its water, which local villagers used to drink, turned salty and was often contaminated. And so in 1962 the decision was made to drain the lake, or at least a part of it. A 10-kilometer tunnel channeled the water to the Pagasitikos Gulf. Though the project destroyed an important wetland that was home to 450,000 waterfowl, at that time drainage seemed to be the best solution. It would put an end to damage and villages were to be created for locals around the lake. But there was always a plan to retain part of the lake. «At that time they said that the lake would be re-established in three years, which never happened, of course,» Lazaros Arseniou, formerly a journalist in the area, told Kathimerini. Forty years later, work began to re-establish the lake in the hope of curbing the environmental problems caused by its drainage. But it seems there is still a lot to be done to bring back all the birds and fish to Lake Karla.