The Disappearance of Dojran Lake

By Natasha Dokovska

SKOPJE, Macedonia, October 16, 2001 (ENS) - Dojran Lake is dying. Situated in the southeastern part of the Republic of Macedonia, the lake is shared in almost equal parts between Macedonia and the Greece. Today with a serious drought in the region, Dojran Lake is evaporating.

Once characterized by the highest fish growth rate in Europe, Dojran Lake has rapidly shrunk to a third of its former size. In the middle of the lake, more than 50 islands have appeared as severe drought has caused a steep drop in the water level.

The citizens in the little town of Dojran on the shore of the lake are in a panic over this situation and frightened for their survival. They say that in the past, two or three islands may have appeared in the middle of the lake during dry years, but this phenomena did not endanger the existence of the lake. In the past, the situation grew worse every year, but now the lake is visibly drying up every day.


Fishing hut on Dojran Lake (Photo Filip Spirovski)
Dojran Lake fish are still caught in an old fashioned way using cormorants. From wooden huts on stakes situated in the water, fishermen use the trained birds to drive schools of fish into a trap. The huts are now on dry land, and a unique way of fishing is vanishing.

Of the total number of streams feeding the Dojran Lake from the surrounding watershed, 67 percent belong to Greece and 33 percent toMacedonia. Any activity disturbing the water balance in this basin also has a negative impact on the lake.

Due to exploitation of the water in Dojran Lake and the streams feeding it, the lake level has dropped 2.5 meters (eight feet) below the minimum water level stipulated in the 1956 bilateral agreement with Greece.

Dojran Lake has a surface area of 42.5 square kilometers (16.4 square miles). On October 1, when officials from Macedonia's Environment Ministry measured the lake's depth, it was 348 centimeters (11.4 feet) below the optimal level. The Macedonian Environment Minister Vladimir Dzabirski says this is largest retreat of the lake ever.

With an average depth of 1.5 meters (4.8 feet) and a three meter (9.7 foot) maximum depth, the lake is turning into a swamp. The plants and animals are dying out, and various diseases infect the fish.


Fishermen on Dojran Lake (Photo courtesy United Macedonians Organization of Canada)
A group of experts from the Biology Institute, having followed the life of Dojran Lake for over 50 years, say it is unlikely that the lake will ever grow back to its original size.

Some experts recommend a change in the course of the nearby Anska River in order to stop further disappearance of the lake.

The person responsible for the project, Kaja Sukova from the Environment Ministry, says that it would take more than five million German marks to divert the river. To date, the Environment Ministry has received five million German marks towards this project, but according Sukova that is not enough.

International public pressure is necessary to provide the support for a solution to this ecological problem.

Meanwhile, the absence of joint action by the local government and Macedonian authorities, and lack of cooperative action between Macedonia and Greece, could soon result in the disappearance Dojran Lake from the world map.