These past few days, Paralimni Lake has been ‘mysteriously’ losing a significant amount of water, following removal of the earth bund that closes the Lake’s irrigation canal. Although the exact reasons for the removal of the bund remain unclear, behind this act are pressures that are all but mysterious. BirdLife Cyprus condemns this incident, and calls on the state to take immediate actions to stop valuable water from being lost from the Lake and to implement a sound and comprehensive management plan for the Lake, which is after all a Natura 2000 area. Attempts to drain the Lake have been made in the past as a result of pressures that arise from the uncontrolled development around but also within the Lake. Not only are such incidents very worrying, especially so close to the bird breeding season, they also reveal the systemic gaps that still exist for the proper management of our protected wetlands.
Paralimni Lake is part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas because of its importance for birds and for the endemic and rare Grass snake Natrix natrix cypriaca, which is on the brink of extinction. In 2012, the European Court of Justice condemned Cyprus for failing to protect Paralimni Lake, and for “tolerating” excessive water extraction, a motocross circuit within the site and building development. Eight years later, Cyprus seems to have not learned the lesson, as no serious efforts have yet been made to effectively protect and manage the area. Paralimni Lake continues to be a prime example of a badly-managed Natura 2000 site in Cyprus. In addition to the deliberate water loss, Paralimni Lake suffers from disturbance and degradation due to uncontrolled access, poaching and illegal trapping activities, dumping of waste and other materials, while pressure grows for residential development around and within the Lake.
What is needed is proper management of the Lake so that the needs of the species that the area is protected for are being met. These species include the Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus, the Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and the endemic Grass snake Natrix Natrix cypriaca.
BirdLife Cyprus urges the state to stop tolerating damaging activities at Paralimni Lake and to ensure that a proper management plan is implemented for the long-term at the Lake, for the birds, the endemic grass snake and also so that people can properly enjoy a great wetland that is in desperate need of care and protection.