Promise of water abundance and the normalisation of water-intensive development in Cyprus

Serkan Karas
Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus; karas.serkan@ucy.ac.cy

Panayiota Pyla
Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus; pyla@ucy.ac.cy

ABSTRACT: Cyprus is the most water insecure of the European Union member countries. This is the case despite the fact that its water landscape – surface, underground and coastal – has been developed almost to its maximum, with large and costly dams, conveyors and desalination plants. This paper provides an historical and technopolitical perspective on this expensively built and precarious water supply regime. We demonstrate how water supply has been central to the formation of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) from the end of colonialism in 1960, through to the 1974 division of the island, and then the 2004 integration of the RoC into the European Union. The paper exposes how, at critical turns, water infrastructure constituted a material practice that shaped the economy’s motive powers, that is, agriculture and tourism. We examine how state actors and international experts promoted these economic activities in ways that relied heavily on water-intensive practices. This led, in turn, to the normalisation of large-scale, capital-intensive water supply projects that consolidated the power of a precarious republic whose control over its population was only partial. Environmentally harmful practices came to be accepted as inevitable or even as crucial for the very existence of the Republic; examples of this include illegal drilling for irrigation in the south-eastern area of Kokkinokhoria and supply of hotel resorts in the village of Ayia Napa and, the supply of golf courses with subsidised agricultural. water. We conclude that, in effect, this material practice creates a long-term technopolitical dynamic that downplays or excludes demand-side water policies and ecological concerns.

KEYWORDS: Water regime, tourism, agriculture, direction, state, infrastructure, Cyprus