A river called Aposelemis, one of the largest in Crete, has been flowing on the island for thousands of years. It starts its journey in the plateau of Lassithi, ending up in an area locally known as Gouves, in the northern part of the island.
As a result of increased water needs of the people who live in the prefectures of Heraklion and Lassithi, a dam was constructed, blocking the free flow of the river, and creating a big water reservoir, close to Potamies village.
That is where the Aposelemis dam was constructed, an impressive man-made wall, 650 meters long, and 62 meters high. The goal, creating an artificial lake with a capacity of over 27 million cubic meters of water.
As it was to be expected, a construction of such magnitude couldn’t go without some… collateral damages. First, pieces of crop land (mostly olive trees) went under the water. Then, a whole village itself, Sfendyli, suffered the heaviest blow. Slowly but steadily, the water has been… taking over, with the villagers postponing their departure as long as they could. When there were just a very few left, they received the compensation they were entitled to, and were forced to evacuate themselves as well.
Due to stronger than normal rainfall these last years, the lake is already full, way ahead of what was predicted and scheduled. Each day that passes, another little piece of Sfendyli village… goes missing, with the whole scenery reminiscent of a scene in some (late) Theo Angelopoulos movie. “Every day we wake up and see a different village”, locals told us.
It goes without saying, the water needs of dozens of thousands of people had to be met, it was crucial, and undoubtedly necessary. Nevertheless, the sight of a whole village sinking under the water, is one that, to many, causes grief. Sfendyli’s narrow streets and houses will, from now on, be home to all sorts of fish.
Let’s try to find the positive aspects of all this
Water, as we all know, is the ultimate source of life, and, obviously, the more of it there is available, the better. As for the… sad sight of Sfendyli sinking by the day, could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the local community, it could turn into a tourist attraction, which, if managed cleverly and efficiently, could create several new jobs. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. After all, there are not countless places in Europe today that offer the kind of… surreal spectacle Sfendyli offers. That’s something (worth visiting).
Someone could say that Sfendyli was “sacrificed” for the greater good of a whole region. I say it’s a place worth seeing. The church of the village is still standing proud above the water, just as a Greek flag is still flying. The area around the dam is one of the hidden secrets of the Municipality of Hersonissos, an ideal destination for anyone seeking peace and relaxation, amidst the beauty of Crete’s countryside.