Desertification: The very real threat to Cyprus and Crete


Argophilia — Not all news from paradise is positive these days as unsustainable practices and the global warming trend threatens to turn Cyprus, Crete and other southern European islands into true desert islands.

Since the mid-1960’s Cyprus has had escalating water usage problems. Urbanization and the increase groundwater use combined with dam projects, exacerbate the problem of ever-decreasing rainfall on the once lush island paradise. Multi-year droughts and longer hotter summers have only served to magnify what was always unsustainable growth.

The disturbing news is not just for Cyprus. Parts of many other countries in the Mediterranean basin, including Greece, have also been deemed to be at high risk of desertification. And out beloved island of Crete, particularly east of Heraklion, due to adverse bioclimatic, hydrological and terrestrial conditions, is threatened as well. Eastern Crete is joined by western Lesvos, the Cyclades islands, the Kilkis region of northern Greece and the hills of central Thessaly as well.

Furthermore, the Bank of Greece estimates the effects of climate change will cost the country 123 billion euros by the year 2100. A committee tasked with studying the macroeconomic cost of climate change has been set up by the central bank and estimates such costs will account for 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP between 2025 and 2050, 0.9 percent between 2051 and 2070 and 0.1 percent beyond 2070.

Water stress in the Mediterranean basin 2013

Water stress in the Mediterranean basin 2013

Here on Crete, the landscape is particularly vulnerable because of the slope of the land and the soil makeup, and because of the land use projections to come. A new resort near Sitia in the east immediately comes to mind. We reported previously about Minoan Group and the Itanos Gaia Project, which is certain to alter water and land usage profiles in this delicate area of the island. Before long downward pressure owing to the economic need for increased tourism on these islands is going to be an acute problem, if interested parties do not intervene.

Crete and Cyprus, Rhodes and many other island communities depend on both tourism and agriculture for survival. Let’s face it, not many travelers covet the idea of holidays on dried up rocks in the sea. And people living in paradise cannot be wishful of fruit trees and vegetable gardens disappearing forever.