Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
environmental modification, Major waterways, ozone layer, raw sewage, cubic meters
Cyprus was famed in antiquity for its extensive forests, but over the centuries the trees that once covered the islandís central plain have been cut down for firewood, shipbuilding, and other construction. Great Britain undertook a serious effort to replant and conserve forests in Cyprus during its occupation of the island in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the countryís remaining trees were destroyed by fires that resulted from the armed conflict between Greek and Turkish partisans in 1974.
Freshwater resources are extremely limited on Cyprus. Seawater is contaminating the countryís major aquifer, and other sources of fresh water are becoming polluted by industrial wastes and raw sewage. Centuries of deforestation have damaged the islandís drainage system, and no permanent rivers remain. Major waterways are fed by rainfall during the winter months and become dry during the summer. A network of dams and reservoirs stores runoff from rainfall, which averages less than 500 millimeters (20 inches) annually.
Cyprus is attempting to reduce its reliance upon rain-fed sources of water. A permanent desalinization plant, capable of converting 40,000 cubic meters (1.4 million cubic feet) of salt water into fresh water per day, opened on the island in 1997. Several additional desalination projects are planned, including two portable plants.
Cyprus has established several game reserves and a state forest, protecting 8.1 percent (1996) of the islandís land. In addition, the country has ratified international agreements protecting biodiversity, endangered species, and the ozone layer, and limiting air pollution, environmental modification, ship pollution, and whaling.
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