ECOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF IRAKLIO
12 Aghiou Fanouriou Str., Nea Alikarnassos,
71601 Iraklion, Crete, Greece
Tel: +302810330730, fax: +302810284520
Web site: www.ecocrete.gr
Aposselemis river dam, project feasibility and impact
This dam project can be characterized as a major hydrogeological, environmental, social and economic scandal. Reliable scientific estimates refute any serious positive ramifications from the construction of this dam. It will only bring hydrogeological and environmental destruction; it will not solve the water supply problems of the cities in the area between Iraklion and Agios Nikolaos. The cost is estimated at hundreds of millions of euros, with much of that coming from the Cohesion Fund of the European Union, through contract CCI: 2000-GR-16-C-PE-006, 27/12/02, though the work is in gross violation of the EU Directive 2000/60 on the management of water resources. The work includes extensive interventions in the natural water flow and in many ecosystems of the mountain area of Dikti (located in the border of the departments of Iraklion and Lassithi) and the surrounding area up to the estuaries of the river Aposselemis. On 1/7/05, the Ministry of Environment and Public Works officially signed the pertinent contract, and the start of work is imminent!
- Early project history
- Reactions of the local community, of the Municipality of Hersonissos and late developments
- Short description of the work
- Basic arguments of Ministry of Environment and Public Works
- Feasibility of project is strongly disputed
- Environmental impact
- Impact on society, economy, and culture
- Alternatives to the dam
Between the departments (prefectures) of Iraklion (Iraklion) and Lassithi, in the Lassithi - “Dikti” - mountain range. On top of these mountains, the famous and impressive Plateau of Lassithi is located, with many traditional villages and horticultural cultivations. The intensive rainfalls of the region often result in the flooding of the area and the creation of seasonal swamps, recognized by the E.U. as Priority Ecotopes for Protection under E.U. Directive 92/43. The flood waters are driven through ditches, which were constructed by the Venetians as early as the 15th century, and lead to the natural drainage channel at Chonos, enriching the aquifer (underground water stratum) and (as has been proved – c.f. below), many other water sources and springs in a radius of more than 20 (twenty) kilometres.
The entry to the Plateau from the side of Iraklion is through the valley of Lagada of Municipality of Chersonissos. Lagada is a place of exceptional beauty, with forestry hills, dense olive groves and rich riverside vegetation. Lagada area includes the villages Potamies, Sfentili, Avdou and Gonies and is being crossed by the river Aposselemis, the estuaries of which are in the golf of Mallia between the municipalities of Hersonissos and Gouves. The estuary of Aposselemis is an internationally registered biotope with code no. 431395000 – and already seriously downgraded.
The old access to the Plateau used to be through the gorge of Ambelou (or Goniano gorge) going up in the point of "Seli'". Most of the gorge constitutes the Proposed Area of Community Interest "Dikti" of the EU Natura Network 2000. During the German occupation of WWII, the current asphalt road was constructed, which by-passes the gorge and goes through the villages Krassi and Kera to the Plateau.
Early project history
Since the ' 60s, when the concept of sustainable development was unknown, politicians promised the construction of a dam in Aposselemis. At 1995, the decision of the Government to construct the dam was made, for the purpose of supplying water to the neighbour cities of Iraklion and Agios Nikolaos, 36 and 32 km away respectively, and to other smaller cities and communities in between. In order to comply with the formal legal obligation and ‘ensure’ the consent of the local community, the Ministry of Environment and Public Works organized a presentation of the project. The presentation was made in a fragmentary manner, with many inaccuracies and errors, and without handing out an Environmental Impact Study to the local authorities for briefing. The local authorities initially accepted the project on good faith, and the Ministry of Environment and Public Works obtained, within the deadline desired, the consent it wanted.
Reaction of the local community, of the Municipality of Hersonissos and late developments
Shortly afterwards, the residents sought and obtained the Environmental Impact Study. Thus they became better informed. They realized that they were initially deceived and that the project proposed wasn’t going to become an artificial ecosystem with riverside activities, canoeing games, fishery and other fairy tales they had heard of up to then, but it was instead about an enormous and complex project with dramatic environmental, social and economic impact on the wider area.
The residents of Lagada from the villages of Potamies, Sfentili, Avdou and Gonies realizing the size and the impacts of this project began a series of fights and resorts in order to stop this project before it’s too late. Through local meetings, they elected representatives that formed local fight committees and the “Coordinative Committee of the Residents of Lagada against the Dam in Aposselemis”. The Municipal Council and the mayor of Hersonissos stood from the beginning by their side declaring their opposition to the construction of the dam.
Apart from peaceful public protests, extensive contacts with the Ministry of Environment and Public Works, local residents submitted two petitions to the Council of State (Συμβούλιο Επικρατείας). These were rejected on formal grounds, and without going into the substance of the matter.
The residents of the area seek support and solidarity in their current struggle, which is now at an all-time critical stage. The Ministry of Environment and Public Works during the previous PASOK Government expropriated the area for the reservoir tank of the dam. The pre-election promises of the current Government for reviewing the feasibility of the project were not kept and the project was auctioned in February 2005. On July 1st 2005 the Ministry of Environment and Public Works officially signed the pertinent contract, and the start of work is imminent!
Short description of the work
1. Works in the Lassithi Plateau with the construction of the dam, spillways and channels for the diversion of the floodwater from its natural recipients to an 800m tunnel that will lead the water through the gorge of Ambelou.
2. Works inside the gorge of Ambelou (Goniano Gorge) where, after the tunnel, a pipe of 3-meter diameter will be placed, and an auxiliary road will be constructed up to the watercourses of the torrent Petra of Aposselemis. Works are also planned at the gorge of Ambelou for the catchment of the water flow.
3. Formation and restriction of access in all torrents of Aposselemis up to the reservoir tank of the dam.
4. Construction of the reservoir tank with a capacity of 32 (thirty-two) million m3 (cubic meters) by compulsory expropriation, deforestation and huge excavations of an area of 2,760,000 m2 from the village Avdou up to the village Potamies, in an area full of olive groves and other cultivations as well as rich riverside vegetation. From this area the provincial road that leads to the Lassithi Plateau, passes through and includes amongst others, the village Sfentili, a medieval village the residents of which are called to abandon it, as well as a historical Byzantine church of the 14th century.
5. Construction of the dam, at about 800m from the village Potamies, with an embankment width of 300m, length 600m and height 56m, and with the largest part of the village of Potamies being below the dam water level.
6. Construction of pipe network in the watercourse of Aposselemis in Potamies and up to the proposed Water Treatment Plant.
7. Construction of the Water Treatment Plant covering an area of 55,000 m2, 7km away from the dam and westwards the village of Hersonissos for the treatment of the downgraded water – given that the surface water of Lassithi is overloaded with pesticides.
8. Construction of a new country road, which will by-pass the dam and will pass through virgin areas with gorges, forested hills and olive groves.
9. Pipe network placement inside the watercourse of Aposselemis up to the coastal area and from there, parallel to the National Road (highway), westwards up to Iraklion (36km) and eastwards up to Agios Nikolaos (32km).
10. A series of other smaller auxiliary works all the way from the Lassithi Plateau up to Potamies.
It is estimated that the construction cost of the project will exceed 200.000.000 Euros!
Basic arguments of the Ministry of Environment and Public Works for the dam
- It is claimed that the project will solve the problem of water supply of Iraklion and of other municipalities. It is a big project, and such projects should be endorsed, for they contribute to development.
- The funds allocated for this project by E.U. should not be lost.
- It is claimed that this project will solve the problem of seasonal flooding in the Lassithi Plateau.
Below, we discuss the refutation of these statements.
The Feasibility of the project is strongly disputed
The initial estimates of the study for a recoverable quantity of 22 million m3 of water, brought down by the same study team to 16 million m3, while other scientists (University of Patras, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA-Ε.Μ.Π.), Organization of Development of Eastern Crete (O.AN.A.K.), the Association of Geologists etc.) estimate this quantity at less than 10 million m3. Actually, the more carefully derived estimates predict that this quantity will only be available as a multi-year median only, with a rather frequent occurrence of a much smaller, if not zero, yearly yield.
The Municipality of Iraklion requires 17 million m3 and the other municipalities, including the city of Agios Nikolaos another 15 million m3. Moreover, the construction of a new water pond with a capacity of 2,5 million m3 in the Plateau of Lassithi has already been approved for construction, which combined with the existing 800.000 m3 pond, will significantly reduce the dam’s final recoverable quantity of water.
It is obvious that the small quantity of water anticipated in the dam by no means justifies the size of the construction planned. The excessive final cost is disproportionate to the quantity and the quality of water. The persistence of the Greek State to go ahead and construct this dam, which has ardent supporters among certain contractors, raises serious legal questions and concerns. The potential “loss” of E.U. funds, which (likely) have been committed – and which are not sufficient for the completion of the work - is not a valid reason for commencing the construction work.
Besides, E.U. officials have made it clear that the funds allocated for the dam may instead be used for other works which will actually tackle the water supply problem of the Iraklion-Agios Nikolaos area in a sound manner – c.f. following paragraph and the final section.
Moreover, the estimates for the water supply needs of Iraklion are being disputed. The Municipal Company for Water and Wastewater pumps out every year roughly 15 million m3, of which only 8 million m3 reach the consumers. The losses are more than 40%! Moreover, a number of alternative solutions have been proposed: exploitation of the Almiros river water – right to the west of the city of Iraklion, a system of water-collecting tunnels at Idi mountain (to collect the Almiros river water before reaching the saline stratum) and the enrichment of the aquifer (and the drillings) with small works in the surrounding mountain ranges along with a policy of drastic reduction of free animal grazing and reforestation - c.f. the final section.
The big extent of the works planned for the Plateau of Lassithi will vitally harm the seasonal swamps created by flood water, that is to say a Protection Priority Ecotope according to the directive 92/43 of EEC. The works planned in the Goniano gorge will produce extensive damage to the forest vegetation, the abundant fauna and the rare bird fauna – this is a Special Birds Area (S.B.A.). The majority of these areas belong to the Proposed Area "Dikti" of Community Interest and Protection, in the frame of the EU Natura Network 2000, and have exceptional significance as ecosystems.
The impact on the groundwater stratum, which is being supplied by water from the Lassithi Plateau catchment area, will be particularly severe. This will result in the deprivation and the possible salinity of the water of several springs, drillings and other water supply sources at the Lassithi mountain range and in the regional villages (as Kasteli, Arkalohori, Gouves, Hersonissos as well as Lakonia, Kritsa), and will respectively have negative effect in other ecosystems as well. It is ironic that these very sources supply Iraklion, Agios Nikolaos and other smaller municipalities with water! Moreover, the aquifer (underground water stratum) has been in operation for millions of years. Once its proper operation is severely disturbed by cutting the inflow at the Lassithi Plateau, the damage will likely be irreversible. These dire consequences can easily be inferred from the recent study of water tracing of the natural drainage of Chonos in the Plateau conducted by the (State) INSTITUTE OF GEOLOGICAL AND MINERAL RESEARCH of Greece.
With regards to the dam and the reservoir tank in Aposselemis, the crucial problem is their enormous size. Today the valley is an area abundant with many species of fauna and flora. The big size and the shape of the tank combined with the deforestations and the frequent and big variation of the water level, do not serve the majority of aquatic and riverside birds. More generally, the important, for the Municipality of Hersonissos, ecological wealth of the region will be downgraded.
The construction of the by-pass road and its service roads, the huge excavations, the Water Treatment Plant construction and the pipe network placement will create farther very significant problems.
Another important negative effect will occur, as has been admitted by the study team of the project, in the downstream areas and mainly in Potamies and in the internationally recognized for its importance biotope of the Aposselemis estuary.
In all, these huge scale interventions will be destructive for the environment and irreversible. They blatantly contradict the principles of sustainable development.
Impact on society, economy and culture
The medieval village of Sfentili will be completely submerged, a village with significant architecture and roughly 80 inhabitants.
The village Potamies is being severely threatened in case of failure/fracture of the dam, as it is located in the path of the dam water flow. Though a study of the Ministry of Environment and Public Works proposed the relocation of the residents of Potamies, no such concrete planning has gone into effect; residents are implicitly expected to live under questionable safety conditions, which should also have very adverse effects on their quality of life – living under ‘constant threat’ status.
A Byzantine church of 14th century with murals of the Fokas brothers is also being submerged by the dam fracture.
A big part of the inhabitants of Lagada are deprived from the agricultural land (2.770 acres) and are called to change their way of life or to abandon their property. A big damage is being done to the social web of the area since many of its components are being degraded or disappear completely.
Any prospect of mild development in the area will be cancelled. Whereas, Lagada could constitute a “breathing-ease” for the saturated tourist economy of Hersonissos and generally of the north-eastern part of the department of Iraklion, by the protection of its natural beauty and the development of alternative forms of tourism and other activities.
These dramatic consequences have not been evaluated in the design study. The project does not have the necessary consent of the residents. It really constitutes a ‘looting’ of the natural local resources of an area, for the profit of others, in complete contradiction to the principles of democracy and to the protection of civil rights.
Alternatives to the dam
We believe, and it is obvious from the above, that, the problem, of sufficient water supply of Iraklion on a permanent basis, cannot be solved by the Aposselemis dam. For this purpose we propose instead:
a) The essential improvement and maintenance of the water supply network of the city of Iraklion, which currently has more than 40% losses (!). Also, the promotion of water use awareness in the city, and the use of water management techniques that will reduce considerably the water losses. Further, a water recycling policy, so far non-existent (!), should be implemented. E.g. the municipalities of Hersonissos and Archanes, both of them close to Iraklion, recycle water for agricultural use.
b) The exploitation of other aquatic resources, in the mountain range of Idi. C.f. the study (by Prof. Dion. Monopolis) on water-collecting galleries to be constructed therein, at a small fraction of the construction cost of the dam, and with a minimal environmental impact. Another alternative is the Almiros river. It has a huge yearly flow of 280 (two-hundred eighty) million m3 of good quality water, which can be collected by use of modern technologies of desalination. This solution also has much lower environmental, social and economic cost compared to the proposed dam.
c) The use of the proposals for the enrichment of the aquifer in the valleys of Kasteli and Lagada with small scale projects. Besides, the construction of a small system of dams aiming at withholding the floodwater of Aposselemis catchment area could play an important role in the improvement of the conditions in the environment, the economy and the living standards of the local population.
- We call on the State to take the brave and wise decision to stop the course of the project before it is too late and also to re-examine the problem of water supply of Iraklion, taking into consideration the current scientific perceptions, the principles of sustainable development and the opinion of the local community.
THE DAM ON APOSSELEMIS CAN AND MUST STOP NOW
ECOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OF IRAKLIO
12 Aghiou Fanouriou Str., Nea Alikarnassos, 71601 Iraklion, Crete, Greece
Tel: +302810330730, fax: +302810284520, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.ecocrete.gr
For direct access in more information [in Greek] you can visit the site www.ecocrete.gr:
- Coordination Committee of Residents of Lagada Against the Aposselemis Dam: http://www.ecocrete.gr/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=6&Itemid=31
- Other articles about Aposselemis Dam in ecocrete: http://www.ecocrete.gr/index.php?option=com_content&task=category§ionid=9&id=242&Itemid=85
- Articles about Aposselemis Dam in Ecological Intervention of Iraklion section: http://www.ecocrete.gr/index.php?option=com_content&task=category§ionid=12&id=238&Itemid=42
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