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Forests in Soil and Water Conservation

MARCH, 1948. Forests in Soil and Water Conservation By A. Polycarpou. HOUSANDS of donums of land are damaged every year by erosion and millions of. tons of rain water -~of such vadtue to our Island—run away swiftly from the hills and eleva~ tions into the sea. These rivers are not only washing away soil but they also take with them the toils and efforts exerted by our farmers to increase production and to meet the demands of the high standard of our presént life and civilization. “ THE WAY OF NATURE It is not only, therefore, the mechan- nisation of agriculture which will increase production soil and water conservation play a most important role. . These are two interlaced problems which cannot be, solved separately. The construction of huge dams and cisterns to store surplus winter rains, besides being an extreme- ly expensive process, does not solve the soil run-off problem. In our Island, there is only one proper solu- tion: The way of nature, which we_ can accelerate by contouring, terracing and planting every bare hill, every barren ridge and slope with trees. Trees are the most valuable agents. conserving the soil, retarding the flow of streams and helping water storage. Their leaves, twigs and branches ex- pose such innumerable little surfaces, forming a loosely thatched roof which upholds rain and snow that ultimately drips from the foliage or tickles down the stems into the soil. The forest soil is always rich with Organic substances and with high A hill without vegetation. Here water catchments have been constructed to preserve water absorptive power every drop of rain water precipitates down to the under- ground and forms an inexpensive reservoir from which it emerges, later, in a controlled flew to feed the streams from springs. Trees do not only hold the water back in the soil, but they also affect the climate by raising the amount of -humidity. This is proved by the fact that a thickly wooded country is wetter than one from which the trees have been felled. A careful glance at our Island will show us persuasive examples of the. In fact that trees help water storage. the Solea Valley, the river has plenty of ‘water both in winter and summer because it springs out from the forested side of Troodos, whilst on the southern side, the river valleys are practically . without any water in summer because they spring out from the Amiantos mountains where trees have been heavily felled by mining operations. RECKLESS DEFORESTATION Spain is an instance of a country whose aridity is largely due to reckless deforestation. Cyprus has also paid too bitterly in the past for similar mistakes history tells us that droughts were many and sometimes prolonged such bad years should be expected again unless we start extensive re- afforestation of waste lands. In the “Ten Years Programme of Development of Cyprus” re-affo- restation has been given due attention and this is pleasant and encouraging. A good start has already been made with the forestation of several thou- and soil before planting. A forest of pine-trees, preserves the rainfall. There are no torrents here and the soil is fully conserved. sands of donums of “ Hali” lands as * Village Fuel Areas”. But the pro- blem of soil and water conservation is a subject of nation-wide importance and every Tom, Dick and Harry, rich or poor, should plant as many trees as he can, because only in this way can the problem be tackled and the Island’s Agricultural output increased. The best trees suiting the purpose afe Eucalyptus and Acacias. These are two hardy species which grow well on most of our low land sites and elevations, without great demands. It would not be out of place to re- mark here, that our peasants have come to recognise the value of these two trees. The fact that more than two million Eucalyptus seedlings have ‘been .planted this year justifies our hopes that soil erosion and. aridity will be minimised, and Cyprus—not to be too optimistic—will soon be, at least self-supporting in timber. OFFICE LIBRARY PHT HERI Bk OucHT Yet, much remains to be done ! If we wish to solve the problem of water shortage and ban the Ghost of drought, that hangs always above us like a “ Damoclean Sword ”, haunting our lives, we must all, from the State down to the humblest individual, unite our efforts in increasing the greenery of Cyprus. Every new tree planted, every new leaf that sprouts adds another drop of water to our rainfall, creates another spring, incre~ ases our national wealth and happiness. Come on then! “ The tide is at the flood, let us take it now that serves |”