Islands low on water

The government declared a state of emergency on the islands of the Cyclades in the Aegean yesterday as water shortages, the result of scant rainfall and a series of heat waves, reached a peak. The decision, announced by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, in effect obliges state officials to cut through the red tape that has been hindering initiatives to boost water supplies. Relevant projects in the pipeline since last winter include the construction of water tanks and desalination plants as well as the maintenance of irrigation networks. Local authorities in the Cyclades group – which comprises 20 large islands including the popular resorts of Myconos, Paros and Santorini along with dozens more smaller islets – received 24 million euros to improve water supplies earlier this year. But the funds, allocated for the activation of neglected water bores and the constructions of water tanks and desalination plants, have yet to be spent. «Since 2003, we have been asking for less money to be spent on transporting water to the islands and for the cash thus saved to be spent on building infrastructure that will provide a long-term solution to the problem,» said Cyclades Prefect Dimitris Bailas. According to Bailas, the cost of transporting water to an island for two years is the same as for building a medium-sized desalination unit. The islands worst affected by dwindling water resources are Kimolos, Milos, Syros, Tinos, Paros, Sifnos and Ios. Yesterday the mayor of Kimolos, Theodoros Maganiotis, warned that the island’s resources had run dry. «We need help, there has been no water on the island since yesterday,» Maganiotis told state television. The dwindling supplies on Kimolos and Milos are largely due to the infrequency with which water is delivered to them by ferry. Santorini already has a desalination unit in operation, which boosts its water supplies. But longstanding plans to build similar units on Syros, Tinos and Paros have stalled due to residents’ protests and bureaucratic hurdles. However, Cyclades Prefect Bailas was hopeful that the government’s latest initiative will improve the situation. «Declaring a state of emergency in the prefecture will help solve many of the problems that we have been unable to tackle so far,» Bailas said.