CYPRUS is running the risk of becoming a desert by the end of the century as it faces the onslaught of climate change and drought warned Professor Manfred Lange – director of the Cyprus Institute’s Energy, Environment and Water Research Centre.
In a discussion held yesterday, Professor Lange said that studies project a rise in summer temperatures on the island of between two and four degrees this century compared to the 1960 to 1990 reference periods. “I think that there is a very definite potential for dramatically increasing desertification,” he said.
According to the Professor, Cyprus can expect an extra two months of days with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees centigrade on top of the present summer months of June, July and August by the end of the century.
There is also likely to be less rainfall and increased evaporation because of higher temperatures.
“Cyprus will in fact become more like Abu Dhabi or other states that we know because there is just not enough water,” he said.
Cyprus now uses energy-intensive desalination to meet some of its water requirements, while its population of around one million lives with rationing and a permanent hosepipe ban. Lange said enforcement must be stringent.
“People want water but if you want to prevent desertification, we need to let nature have its share,” he said, adding that while climate change could be slowed, it could not be reversed.
The Cyprus Institute is examining the use of concentrated solar power to co-generate electricity and water suitable for drinking through desalination; technology that Lange said could be used elsewhere. “Cyprus could become somewhat of a showcase for this kind of technology and could develop an industry that would indeed then offer to market these devices to neighbouring countries“.
Speaking after the discussion on the issue of desertification Yiannos Lamaris, the Chairman of the House Environment Committee, said that desertification was now “visible to the naked eye,” adding that the main reason behind it was human intervention.
He said that Cyprus lacked the necessary planning to deal with excessive grazing of the land and pointed to the Akamas peninsula alone, where there are currently 12,000 animals grazing uncontrollably.
“With mathematical accuracy, Akamas will turn into a desert in just a few years, due to uncontrollable grazing,” said Lamaris.
A similar problem is being faced in the Pissouri-Avdimou area, he added.
“While Cyprus signed the UN treaty to combat desertification back in 1999, we have reached 2008 and have been told that the report for the strategic plan for combating desertification will be ready in about a month, ” Lamaris explained.
The House Environment Committee decided to re-convene on the issue in a month’s time to examine the strategic plan and take it from there.