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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-08-31

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, August 31, 2000


  • [01] Water table levels dangerously low
  • [02] Ministers postpone decision on grape crisis
  • [03] Blackmail suspects ‘caught in the act’
  • [04] Turks arrest two near Strovilia checkpoint
  • [05] Breaking in to the digital age
  • [06] Market shows signs of life
  • [07] Anger at sudden decision to close theatre for repairs
  • [08] CLR show their hand

  • [01] Water table levels dangerously low

    By Anthony O. Miller

    EXPERTS have issued warnings over the dire state of Cyprus’ underground water reserves, speaking of "catastrophic" consequences if we continue to pump from them at the current rate.

    With reservoir levels running low and the island struggles through another year of drought, groundwater reserves are being increasingly tapped to make up for the shortfall -- especially in the water-hungry agricultural sector.

    "We are dangerously over-pumping our groundwater. We have passed beyond the danger point," Geological Survey Department Director George Petrides warned yesterday.

    "We cannot go on over-pumping, because reserves will run dry."

    "If we go back to 1960…there were about 3.2 billion cubic metres of groundwater stored in Cyprus," Petrides said. "This was the period of the big boom in agricultural development, and the annual pumping in the mid-to- late 1960s was calculated to be 300 million cubic metres per year."

    Even that "was over-pumping, taking into account the annual recharge in that period of about 40 million cubic metres a year," he said. Since then, things have changed for the worse.

    Cyprus now only has about half -- about 1.5 billion cubic metres -- of that groundwater left. "But it’s not in a single cache. It’s scattered, which makes its recovery more difficult," Petrides said.

    As water tables fell with the farm boom, so did rainfall, which the Meteorological Service estimates has decreased about 17 per cent over the century. And with it, the aquifer-recharge rate fell about 30 per cent, Petrides said.

    Cyprus now pumps some 240 million cubic metres of groundwater a year. But it only gets 210 million cubic metres to recharge its aquifers, leaving "an average of 30 million cubic metres per year in over-pumping," Petrides said.

    "That over-pumping could be catastrophic for the larger aquifers," while the smaller ones will "simply reduce their yield so their bore-holes only pump out a few cubic metres per hour," instead of the plentiful flow of years past, he said.

    "For instance, boreholes in the Troodos that 25 years ago yielded 150 cubic metres an hour are now yielding two or three cubic metres an hour," he said.

    If over-pumping does not dry up the aquifers, "what will happen… is the yield of the boreholes will drop. It’s a law. The groundwater yield will go into a static mode and stay more or less balanced until replenished."

    "We’ve done the damage that could be done. From now on, it’s the quality rather than the quantity that is in danger in the groundwater," Petrides said. "So we will be running another re-evaluation survey of the groundwater quality."

    Factors affecting aquifer quality include human pollution and salts from salt domes created by evaporated primordial seas, he said. This water has become brackish and tainted with boron, nitrates and fluoride. It is undrinkable and only "very rare strains of vegetables and plants can survive on it."

    But joint Cyprus-EU studies are seeking a cheap way to remove the contaminants from the salt-dome water, "in which case we have an extra source of groundwater," Petrides said.

    Petrides said the state could not bring private bore-hole pumping back under control.

    "If we want to control it, we can," he said. "In the old days, the main aquifers were declared as a special area. You needed not only a special permit, you needed extra controls on the pumping by meters at the outlet of the pump.

    To prevent underground water running out Petrides has urged for the quick consolidation of control over the island’s water resources -- rivers, dams, land use and crop irrigation -- under a single authority, as the government has promised to do for more than a year.

    Nicos Tsiourtis, Water Development Department (WDD) chief engineer, said 65 per cent of the island’s water was drawn from aquifers, and the rest from reservoirs and desalination.

    Petrides noted that over 85 per cent of the groundwater pumped went to agriculture -- often watering surplus crops that end up being dumped.

    Responsibility for both groundwater and the growing of bumper crops comes under the authority of the Agriculture Ministry, which has been accused of failing to pursue a co-ordinated water-use and farm policy.

    "I know there are steps being taken now to declare the whole of the island under the control of a Special Measures Law," Petridesd said, adding this and the consolidation of all water powers under one authority would go far to conserving water.

    "But time is closing in for things to happen, as a natural result of this over-exploitation," he warned. "Desalination will give us breathing space, and if we use it correctly, it might enhance the groundwater reserves as well."

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [02] Ministers postpone decision on grape crisis

    By Martin Hellicar

    UNRUFFLED by vine growers’ violent protests on Tuesday, the cabinet yesterday decided to postpone a final decision on the level of compensation to be offered for surplus grapes dumped in landfills.

    "The cabinet dealt with the issue, but the final decisions will be taken and announced on Thursday," Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said after yesterday morning’s cabinet session.

    The cabinet is to meet again today to consider an offer from local wineries -- communicated to Ministers yesterday -- to take in excess grapes, albeit at a reduced price. Wineries have been refusing to take in more grapes, saying wine prices in the EU are so low that they could never hope to export more wine.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous yesterday said wineries had now reconsidered their stance. If accepted, the wineries’ offer would reduce the impact on state coffers of paying growers to dump their grapes.

    But the growers yesterday made clear the offer from the wineries would only be acceptable if the state subsidised growers’ incomes to make up for the lower price the wineries were offering for their produce.

    On Tuesday, about 200 vine growers from the Limassol and Paphos areas clashed with police outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia as they protested to demand that compensation be upped from the current 90 per cent to 100 per cent.

    Farmers were digging their heels in yesterday, insisting they would not accept a compromise 95 per cent compensation deal the cabinet was reportedly leaning towards.

    "Our demand is that our producers be fully paid for the price of the grapes they have produced -- whether they go to the wineries or to the landfills," the head of the Pek Farmers’ union Michalis Litras said.

    Meanwhile, vine growers in the Limassol district village of Pachna were preparing to surrender their electoral registration papers in protest at President Clerides’s refusal to meet with a 20-man protestors’ delegation on Tuesday. The President refused to receive more than 15 delegates, saying his audience room had but 15 chairs.

    Pek leader Litras said Pachna residents planned to hand in their election papers tomorrow, "unless (today’s) cabinet decision changed their minds".

    Litras dismissed suggestions growers would agree to uproot vines producing unwanted varieties in exchange for greater compensation for this year’s surplus produce. He noted that existing varieties had been planted on the advice of government experts and said the state should foot the bill for replacing unpopular varieties.

    "As far as rooting out is concerned, the vine growers are prepared to do so provided the government pays the cost of re-planting with designated varieties… we must stress that all the varieties of grapes considered unwanted by the wineries today were planted on the recommendation of the Ministry of Agriculture and with the participation of the wineries," Litras said.

    It was high time for a collective grape growing police re-thing, the Pek leader said. "It is time to sit down together to face the vines problem for the future so that we do not face the same problems every year."

    Somewhere between 2,500-6,000 tonnes of grapes are expected to end up underground this year.

    Last year, over 11,000 tonnes of grapes were thrown away.

    The grape dumping is seen as a necessary evil in government circles but has been heavily criticised by opposition parties.

    Dimitris Christofias, leader of main opposition party Akel, yesterday urged the government not to be "miserly" and to cough up the full cost for dumped grapes. The Akel leader condemned Tuesday’s unruly demonstration as "neither pleasant nor acceptable".

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [03] Blackmail suspects ‘caught in the act’

    By Martin Hellicar

    TWO Larnaca men tried to blackmail two executives out of £320,000 by threatening to "damage" their tourism firm, the Larnaca District Court heard yesterday.

    A police sting operation caught the two suspects, a 41-year-old civil engineer and a 30-year-old driver, red-handed making a threatening call to one of the executives, the court heard.

    Police set out on the trail of the suspected blackmailers on Tuesday afternoon, after two Aqua Sol Hotel executives showed police a threatening letter allegedly sent by the two, case investigator Andreas Yiatropoulos said.

    The Aqua Sol executives told police that the blackmailers had already contacted them from a public call box to reiterate their letter threat and were to call them again to arrange the hand-over of the £320,000. Armed with this information, police detailed some 35 officers to watch all the public call boxes in Larnaca town, Yiatropoulos told the court.

    The surveillance paid off, police nabbing the two suspects in a call box on Hamit Bey Street at about 8 pm on Tuesday. One of the men was calling Aqua Sol at the time while the other was standing outside the phone booth, urging his friend to ‘hurry up’, the case investigator said.

    The two men later confessed to conspiring to blackmail the two Aqua Sol executives between August 27 and 29, Yiatropoulos said. It was not clear yesterday how the tow suspects planned to "damage" Aqua Sol.

    The two alleged blackmailers were remanded in custody for eight days.

    This is the second time this month the tourism firm has been the target for criminals.

    Earlier this month, a company employee carrying £40,000 was attacked by two muggers on the steps of the company’s Ayia Napa offices. Police foiled the attack and arrested one of the attackers.

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [04] Turks arrest two near Strovilia checkpoint

    By Jean Christou

    THE United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus (Unficyp) yesterday confirmed that two Greek Cypriots had been detained by Turkish troops on Tuesday evening at a disputed checkpoint close to eastern British base of Dhekelia.

    Unficyp spokesman Major Paul Kolken said the two men aged 22 had been arrested at the Black Knight checkpoint near Strovilia, a military crossing point between the bases and the Turkish-controlled north of the island.

    Kolken said he could not reveal the names of the two men and that Unficyp had been unable to obtain more details from authorities in the north because Turkish Cypriots were celebrating a Turkish mainland holiday. "They will probably appear in court tomorrow," he said. The UN is trying to arrange to visit to the two men.

    Cyprus police also declined to name the two men. A duty officer in Nicosia said police were not sure the men’s relatives had been informed and that they themselves were waiting for information from Unficyp. The incident happened at around 7pm on Tuesday night, the duty officer said.

    British bases spokesman Rob Need confirmed that the two men had driven up to Black Knight checkpoint and asked to cross to the north at Strovilia. "They wanted to go into the occupied areas, not into the village" Need said.

    He said British troops couldn’t stop anyone who wanted to cross. "We can only warn them," he said.

    Need said that as soon as the men crossed the second barrier, manned by Turkish troops, they were arrested. It is believed one of the two Greek Cypriots detained holds American citizenship.

    On July 1, Turkish troops advanced 300-400 metres, putting Strovilia and its handful of Greek Cypriot residents behind Turkish lines.

    Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulides warned on Tuesday that Turkish military actions near Strovilia were undermining the ongoing UN-led Cyprus talks.

    He was responding to a visit to Strovilia on Saturday evening by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, which the government views as a provocation.

    The two sides are due to resume UN-sponsored proximity talks in New York on September 12.

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [05] Breaking in to the digital age

    By Jennie Matthew

    CYPRUS is to join the age of digital television after the government gave the go ahead to Lumiere to provide the service, in a move set to spell massive growth for the private television company behind pay-TV channels LTV and Alpha.

    "It’s a breakthrough for Cyprus. We’re not going to be left behind the rest of the world in technological development," the company’s director general, Joseph Avraamides told Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Lumiere intend to market digital television all over Europe as well as Cyprus, in alliance with foreign broadcasting corporations.

    Permanent Secretary at the Communications Ministry Vassos Pyrgos yesterday confirmed that a VSAT licence for the small antenna that zaps digital information across the globe had been granted to Lumiere. The decision was taken at the last Cabinet meeting.

    Plans to go digital have been in the Lumiere pipeline for a couple of years, but work is still frantic and there is still no timetable for the product launch.

    Digital television debuted in Europe as early as 1997 and appeared in Britain and the US in 1998. The Australian government has stipulated that all non-subscription TV must be transmitted in digital as of January 1, 2001.

    "We still have a long way to go and we have to rush," said Avraamides.

    The company intends to spend September finalising planning and design, before making concrete commitments, but Avraamides promised more than the current two channels offered by Lumiere and a more international selection of programmes.

    Lumiere is negotiating programme deals with foreign broadcasters, namely Greek, English and American companies, and hopes to forge an alliance with Multichoice Hellas, the Greek based television company, which already operates the Nova Digital Bouquet (NOVA).

    Lumiere is this week issuing invitations to all Cypriot and Greek channels, including CyBC, asking them to participate in the plans, which could add at least 10 new channels to our screens.

    Observers are divided over whether state-funded CyBC will enter into any kind of agreement with a pay-TV channel that poses such a serious market threat.

    Digital television offers viewers clearer vision, improved sound quality and reception, alongside a wider range of programming and interactive services.

    Lumiere digital viewers, for example, will be able to select their preferred language, making all programmes, regardless of language, accessible to all.

    The digital launch, in the wake of success elsewhere in the world, looks poised to jettison Lumiere into considerable growth. The company joined the Cyprus Stock Exchange in July and has an annual turnover of £7 million.

    Institutional investors have recently brought up large numbers of Multichoice shares, amid rumours that the digital deal would be clinched – over a million shares have been traded per day in recent weeks.

    "We have a commitment to our shareholders and to increase the value of our company," said Avraamides, fending off criticisms of bullish behaviour. About 50 new jobs will be created by the launch.

    But consumers can only wait for more information. Prices remain vague, but Avraamides admitted that digital subscription would be more expensive than current rates for LTV and Alpha of £190 a year, or £16.61 a month, VAT included.

    Decoders for these two-pay channels, which are incompatible with the new technology, cost £79, or £70 with a year’s subscription. The digital decoders will also be more expensive. "But I think it will be affordable," he said. With 49,000 subscribers already, the company is confident about swelling the number well beyond the 50,000 bench mark.

    Alpha and LTV will not be phased out by the new technology and subscribers will be able to carry on watching those channels.

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [06] Market shows signs of life

    By Jean Christou

    Share prices dropped slightly again yesterday dragging the all-share index down 0.3 per cent to close at 376.9 as small investors saw the selling advantage of the recent boom in a few select stocks.

    The index opened substantially lower, according to broker Stephanos Hailis and went down to 372 points. "This started the liquidations after Monday’s and Tuesday’s good days," he said.

    "Then there was a renewed interest which led the index higher but not high enough to close at yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) level."

    Volume stood at £26.5 million, substantially lower than Tuesday’s £36 million but still healthy.

    All sectors ended with losses yesterday apart from investment and ‘other’ companies, which gained 0.68 per cent and 0.64 per cent respectively. Tourism, Tuesday’s star performer lost the bulk of that day’s 3.1 per cent gain to end 2.15 per cent down yesterday.

    The trading and insurance sectors lost 1.3 per cent each, and manufacturing 0.76 per cent. The banking sector remained low-profile, down 0.44.

    Bank of Cyprus (BoC) lost four cents close at £6.33, while Laiki Bank added one cent to end at £9.23. Hellenic Bank slid six cents to £2.09. Yesterday was the first trading day for Hellenic Bank Rights 1.5 million were traded.

    Press reports yesterday said that Bank of Cyprus would suspend its shares on the CSE on September 22 in preparation for a its expected Athens listing of 39 million shares on the in the last week of the month. The suspension of the shares will be for a period of one week.

    GlobalSoft continued its winning streak yesterday adding 13 cents to close at £5.24 with close to a million shares traded, while Glory Worldwide Holdings jumped 64 cents to end at £5.80. Cyprus Forest Industries also gained, increasing the share price by 12 cents to £4.09 amid reports of layoffs in the company, which is trimming its costs.

    Profit taking continued in Toxotis and Europrofit stocks, which performed well earlier in the week leading to shavings in the price of both companies’ shares.

    Toxotis lost 16 cents to close at £2.75 with 1.62 million shares changing hands while Europrofit dropped 15 cents to £2.75.

    Hailis said nothing in yesterday’s trading stood out significantly but there was an indication that investors were returning to the market after the August holidays.

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [07] Anger at sudden decision to close theatre for repairs

    THE CYPRUS Theatre Organisation (Thok) has lashed out at Nicosia municipality after a decision to close the Municipal Theatre for emergency repairs to its roof, saying the announcement had come out of the blue.

    Nicosia mayor Lellos Demetriades yesterday sought to reassure Thok that alternative venues would be found for their performances, and said the urgency of the repairs had only become clear on Tuesday.

    But Thok director Andis Spatchilis said yesterday the problems had become apparent two months ago.

    "This is a complete lack of communication. They kept it hidden for two months and didn’t tell us anything. This infuriates me. In that time of two months we could have found alternative solutions or found a hall and modified it temporarily, for a few months or as long as was needed for the theatre to be fixed."

    The announcement comes just days before the start of the Kypria 2000 festival, for which the Municipal Theatre was due to host several events.

    Demetriades said the roof of the theatre had be a cause for concern for some time but that the seriousness of the damage was only fully understood on Tuesday when a Municipality crew went up to examine it.

    "We always knew it would have to be closed, and we expected to be able to give months of warning, but when we saw this we had to close the Theatre immediately."

    Demetriades said he understood the closure would cause problems for Thok and for the Kypria festival. "But we could not take a chance when somebody could be killed or hurt."

    Culture Minister Ouranios Ioannides has said alternative venues for events planned for the Theatre would be announced as soon as possible.

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, August 31, 2000

    [08] CLR show their hand

    By Athena Karsera

    Set to hit the Cyprus Stock Exchange on September 14, CLR Investment Fund highlighted their current activities and future plans at a press conference yesterday.

    With a capital base of £144 million and having elected to be listed under the category of ‘Other Companies,’ CLR will be offering an exclusive allocation of a minimum of £7.5 million shares from the Initial Placement Offering of CLR Financial Services to the shareholders of CLR Investment Fund. There will also be an acquisition of £7.5 million in private placement in CLR Financial Services.

    According to CLR Investment Fund’s General Manager George Mouskides, "From the very beginning, our strategy was in line with a listing in the ‘Other Companies’ sector." He said that this allowed CLR to invest in companies that are not listed in the CSE and meant a more flexible investment policy, diversifying investment risk and created conditions for increased profitability, "As we expect recurring and significant gains from our investments in private equity, in the capital of private companies."

    Company director Neoclis Nicolaou said that in addition to the investments and commitments made in individual companies, CLR also took part in a number of specialised investment funds, "This includes a Technology Fund of an initial size of £10 million and a Shipping Fund with an initial size of £25 million."

    On his part, private equity/venture capital sector head Christoforos Antoniades, said that CLR’s equity participations and commitment for investments to date amounted to £52 million distributed over 25 investee companies in the tourism, technology, shipping, retail trade, pharmaceutical and energy sectors to name a few.

    He continued, "The largest part of the portfolio includes investments made in companies that are already profitable and show substantial growth potential, factors that suggest high returns for the portfolio."

    Adding that the portfolio was also diversified to minimise risk, Antoniades said that the quality of the management team also played a significant role, "The team is comprised of specialists in private equity/venture capital, finance, technology, shipping etc."

    [<a href="greek0831.htm">Greek Press</a>]

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

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