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Turkey hopes to use water to build peace March 22, 2009

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
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Veysel Eroğlu, the minister of environment and forestry, has said Turkey wants to use water to build peace rather than allowing it to become a source of tension as dwindling water supplies begin to turn this natural resource into an increasingly precious commodity.

We have been increasing cooperation with our neighbors, including Syria and Iraq. We want to use water to build peace,” he said in reference to the Euphrates-Tigris basin, which is shared by Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Two of the world’s most well-known transborder rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, both originate in Turkey and have a combined average annual water potential of about 87.7 billion cubic meters, approximately equal to that of the Nile. They have the ability to meet the needs of Turkey, Syria and Iraq, but the water issue has been held hostage to politics rather than the technical aspects of water management.

The United Nations has said that there are 263 transborder lakes and river basins on the planet, making up nearly one-half of the Earth’s land and accounting for an estimated 60 percent of the world’s flowing fresh water.

Eroğlu said that in line with Ankara’s policy of improving its relations with its neighbors, Turkey is cooperating with Syria and Iraq to manage the water from these shared rivers and ensure equitable distribution.

To that end, technical experts from the three countries have been meeting to exchange information and know-how. One exciting project currently in the works is cooperation between Turkey and Syria for the building of a dam on the Asi River (also known as the Orontes), which originates in Syria and has an annual water flow of 2.5 billion cubic meters. Eroğlu said the dam will be called the “Asi Friendship Dam.”

In an interview with Monday Talk, Eroğlu explained the issues related to transborder water supplies as well as other water-related concerns during the 5th World Water Forum, which was held in İstanbul between March 16 and 22.

…Is it possible that the dam’s construction will start this year?

Ministries from both sides have signed a protocol to complete preparatory works for building the dam. If we can finish the mapping and feasibility studies this year, construction will begin next year.

There was another much-talked-about project for making use of the water from the Manavgat River. What’s happened to that?

The preparations for the Manavgat project were completed in early 2000. As the director of the DSİ in 2003, I wrote to the officials of the relevant countries, from Libya to Jordan, and to Palestinians and Israelis, that we had water available to be filled into tankers and ready to go. The conclusion regarding this was that the cost of transporting the water would be too high. We gave the water and the management of the project’s operations to the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality. If anybody wants this water, they still can buy it.

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