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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Village fears for the worst as ancient spring dries up ]

Village fears for the worst as ancient spring dries up

SINCE ancient times, the pride of Farmakas village has been its bubbling spring: Koshinas.

The spring quite literally greened the village, providing villagers with all their domestic water, watering the village’s famous citrus and apricot trees and attracting visitors from far and wide who came to picnic by its banks.

Not any longer. Koshinas is drying up and its once green surroundings are now dry and barren, a victim of both the drought and – ironically – the measures taken to circumvent it.

Farmakas, like most agricultural villages in the mountains, depends on natural water resources for survival. In recent years the village has experienced a severe depletion in those supplies and now has to cope with only a fraction of the water it once had.

Pensioner Kostas Raftis who has lived in the village all his life said that people stopped visiting Koshinas - named after the bubbles that would appear at the base of the spring that resembled a Koshino, the sieve used for wheat - when the surrounding area dried up and lost its appeal as a picnic spot.

“A vast number of walnut and apricot trees that surrounded the area have had to be cut down over the years,” said Raftis, an experienced farmer. “And with Koshinas not providing the amount of water it used to, planting new ones is pointless.”

Raftis explained that last year the output of water from Koshinas fell to six tons an hour, half of what it used to be. This year it produces just two tons an hour.

“Koskinas used to water 200 acres of land every 168 hours,” said Raftis. “It would provide drinkable water for the entire village and even provided water to dams in Palechori.”

Located in the Nicosia district on mountainous terrain, Farmakas has a small population of just 500 residents. In the centre of the village there is a paved square and a coffee shop where the locals meet daily. The village has a nursery and primary school. Secondary school students have to travel some distance to neighbouring towns for their schooling.

While the ongoing drought has certainly contributed to the lack of water in Farmakas, many of the residents believe that the increasing number of boreholes being dug in the area is the root of the problem.

The Mukhtar, Christakis Xenofontos, said that boreholes were first dug in the Farmakas area around ten years ago, but there had been a significant increase in the last few years.

He expressed his concern over the decrease of water in the village and the relative ease with which anyone could apply for a borehole licence.

Xenofontos explained that Farmakas used to predominantly produce citrus fruits such as lemons and mandarins. Around 1993 when there was an increase in the price of tomatoes, many of the local farmers stopped cultivating citrus fruits and started growing tomatoes and cucumbers instead.

“Tomatoes and cucumbers were more profitable for farmers to grow,” said Xenofontos. “But anyone who has experience in farming knows that they require a lot more water. Since then boreholes have continued to be dug and our water supply has now decreased alarmingly.”

He said that the Farmakas Council had written to the Agricultural Ministry last April expressing their concern over the number of new boreholes being drilled in the area, which they firmly believed were linked to the reduction of water from Koshinas, but to date they had received no answer.

“We’re all sad that a historical spring like Koshinas is drying up,” said Xenofontos, “but we also have to deal with the more serious matter of what to do if it dries up completely.” He explained that Farmakas, which is at an altitude of 950 metres above sea level and accessible only by steep winding roads, would be an extremely difficult location to transport water to.

Assistant District Supervisor, Michalakis Beysi said that boreholes drilled for domestic and irrigation purposes required a licence which was only issued once the land and soil it was intended for was evaluated.

“The land is evaluated on how much water is present in the soil,” said Beysi. “Once it is deemed suitable a licence will be issued but another permit is required for water to be pumped out.” In addition Beysi said that a meter is installed with every borehole which monitors the amount of water being pumped out and the remaining water level in the soil.

State geologist, Antonis Kolios said that “the digging of boreholes is not taken lightly. Neither is the issuing of borehole licences.” He added that consideration is also taken to make sure there are not too many boreholes on any given spot of land, the law currently stating that there must be a distance of 80 feet between every borehole.

So could the increasing number of boreholes being dug in Farmakas be a major reason why ancient Koshinas’ output of water has fallen so drastically?

“The droughts we have been experiencing have definitely had an impact, but boreholes that are dug legally shouldn’t have significantly affected water output,” Kolios said. “To assess the situation accurately an evaluation of the entire area would be necessary.”

In the meantime, the village struggles on. The spring may be drying up, but the village council plans to once again turn the area into an attraction and rebuild the nearby Koshinas restaurant, which was destroyed by heavy snowfall in 1992.

But without the spring as a magnet to draw the visitors, it is not clear how successful the venture will be.

For the villagers themselves, the loss of the spring means much more than just its irrigation and tourist value.

If Koshinas dries up, so does a way of life. Xenofontos spoke of its sentimental value, particularly for the young. “As the spring is a few minutes walk away from the village centre it has always served as a meeting place for young people who want some time away from old folk like us.”

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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