Sunday, March 21, 2010

Water plans in Cyprus attacked as ‘sheer insanity’

Patrick Dewhurst in the Cyprus Mail (Cyprus): Economic and environmental experts have slammed a government’s plan to give the cheap reservoir water to farmers and let consumers pay for the more expensive desalinated water. The experts described the plan, which they say would include year round production at summer-peak levels and allocation of cheaper reservoir water exclusively to farmers, as "sheer insanity" that could cost "hundreds of millions of euros."

Theodore Panayotou, Professor of Environmental Economics and co-author of a damming report on the plan said: "In light of our public finance problems, this policy is sheer lunacy. It pours hundreds of millions of euros, and water down the drain, and it amounts to the largest transfer of wealth since the stock exchange bubble burst."

Under the plan, he says, the surplus from the plants would also go to the farmers. He calculates that with this surplus, farmers’ needs will be exceeded by 26 million cubic metres per year, effectively subsidising unsustainable agriculture for a minority group, to the cost of the taxpayer. Agriculture’s contribution to GDP is less than three per cent compared to tourism, which accounts for just over ten per cent.

"In the past few years only 38 million tons were used by agriculture. Now with 135 million cubic meters we will soon be growing and exporting rice in addition to their very successful banana crop," he said. Desalinated water costs over twice as much to produce as treated reservoir water, (between 87 cents and €1 per cubic metre, compared to 40 cents for the latter. Panayotou’s comments come just days after the Water Development Department (WDD) predicted a possible trebling of water prices in some areas next year….

The reservoir next to the Germasogeia Dam, Cyprus, shot by Ewa Dryjanska, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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