Turkey Says More Water For Iraq, Syria Is Unlikely

Turkey Says More Water For Iraq, Syria Is Unlikely

The Euphrates is Drying Up

The Euphrates is Drying Up

(AP) A water rights battle over the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers simmered Thursday, as Iraq and Syria appealed for increased water flows to cope with severe drought but Turkey said it was already too overstretched.

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Turkey’s southeast region was also suffering from low rainfall and drought but the country was still releasing more water than it was legally obligated to its neighbors out of humanitarian concerns.

He said Turkey was releasing on average 517 cubic meters per second instead of the required 500 cubic meters per second, sacrificing its own energy needs in the process.

“Water isn’t abundant in Turkey,” Yildiz said on the sidelines of a meeting between Turkey, Iraq and Syria to discuss water sharing. “We cannot top this amount any further.”

Turkey is advocating using water more efficiently and sustainably through joint projects instead of increasing water flows.

Thursday’s meeting was called to discuss setting up joint stations to measure water volume at the rivers, as well as exchanging more information about climate and drought and creating joint education programs for more sustainable water management.

Drought-stricken Iraq has accused its upstream neighbors Turkey and Syria of taking too much from the rivers and their tributaries. Below-average rainfall and insufficient water in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have left Iraq parched for a second straight year, wrecking swaths of farm land and threatening drinking water supplies.

The rivers’ low water flows are caused in part by the construction of dams in Turkey and Syria.

“The water situation in Iraq in the past two years has not been good at all,” Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources Abdul-Latif Jamal Rashid said. “We are suffering from a serious water shortage. Rainfall has decreased by 40 percent. The drought has intensified.”

“This month Iraq will require more water from Turkey and Syria and we believe that this will not be denied,” he said.

Turkey’s Environment Minister Veysel Eroglu said in opening remarks that Turkey was sacrificing energy production to release water from dams and alleviate water shortages downstream.

“The Euphrates and Tigris basins are extremely arid,” Eroglu said. “We are relinquishing our energy needs to make sure that Iraq and Syria are not left without water.”

Nader al-Bunni, Syria’s irrigation minister, said his country was also letting more water flow into Iraq than required by agreements.

“We understand Iraq’s need for more water and we are letting 69 percent of the waters in the Euphrates for the bretheren people of Iraq. We have increased the amount from 58 percent to 69 percent,” he said.

Iraq, Syria huddle over water crisis
Published: Aug. 20, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Amid a worsening Middle East drought, Turkey’s cut-off of Euphrates River water to Iraq and Syria was high on the agenda when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Syrian President Bashar Assad met here this week.

Water supply, always an important element in this largely arid region, has become a strategic issue for Iraq and Syria since Turkey reduced the flow of the Euphrates to build a series of hydroelectric dams in the impoverished Anatolia region in the southeast.

Four years into a drought, Iraq’s woes have been compounded by what some officials call an “environmental catastrophe.”

A plague of unusually severe dust storms is drying up riverbeds and marshes and turning arable land into desert in an area known through the ages as the Fertile Crescent, where the first civilizations arose.

Agricultural production has plunged to all-time lows, and Iraq, beset by political feuding and sectarian bloodshed after six years of insurgency, now has to import 80 percent of its food.

The Euphrates and the Tigris, both of which rise in Turkey, are among the largest rivers in the Middle East. They flow through Iraq, where they join near Basra in the south to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway that runs into the Persian Gulf.

The flow of the Tigris, which runs through Syria, has not been particularly affected by Turkey’s ambitious $32 billion Southeast Anatolia Project, known as GAP after its Turkish name Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi.

But that does not diminish the fearful impact of the reduction in the Euphrates flow that has soured relations between Turkey, Syria and Iraq, which in the past have competed for regional leadership.

The Damascus summit did not announce any agreement between Iraq and Syria on how to get Turkey to increase the Euphrates flow. But Maliki and Assad formed a “high-level strategic cooperation council.”

It will be headed by the countries’ premiers and will meet every six months to cover foreign affairs, defense, finance, economic development and other key issues, such as water resources.

Iraqi Water Minister Latif Rashid, who accompanied Maliki to Damascus, last week accused Ankara of breaking a promise to increase the flow of the Euphrates.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had said earlier that Ankara had fulfilled a pledge to boost water flow from 570 cubic meters per second, about half the 2000 level of 950 cubic meters a second, to 715 for July, August and September.

Baghdad claims that instead the flow rate was reduced to around only 250 cubic meters a second, one-quarter of the minimum required by Iraq for irrigation.

Under GAP, Turkey is building 22 dams and huge reservoirs, with 19 hydroelectric power plants, along the fabled rivers in nine of Turkey’s poorest provinces.

The $32 billion project is the centerpiece of Turkey’s development plans. It was started in the 1980s and is scheduled for completion in 2013.

It will generate 7,400 megawatts of electricity and 22 percent of Turkey’s energy, and irrigate 4.2 million acres of land for crops, an economic transformation that should turn a virtual dustbowl into a major granary.

The water issue is becoming an increasingly important political hot potato between Iraq and Turkey, its northern neighbor.

Relations between them had improved after Saddam Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003. But plans by Iraq’s restive Kurds to establish their own state in northeastern Iraq have badly strained relations.

Turkey fears that will galvanize its own rebellious Kurdish minority in their two-decade-old armed struggle for autonomy.

Indeed, Turkey’s promise to release more Euphrates water for its drought-ravaged neighbor was accompanied by Baghdad announcing plans to crack down on Kurdish rebels on the border with Turkey.

But that is easier said than done. Maliki needs the Kurds as allies as he struggles to forge post-Saddam Iraq into a federal state at a time when U.S. forces are being withdrawn.

Moving against the Iraqi Kurds’ brethren would put that vital alliance in severe jeopardy at a critical time in Iraq’s reconstruction. Turkey is also one of Iraq’s main trading partners.

Ankara’s strategic leverage is magnified by the fact that one-fifth of Iraq’s oil exports from its northern oil fields around Kirkuk, 400,000 barrels per day, run through twin pipelines to the Turkish port of Ceyhan in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Comments (3)

norman said:

look at this , a change in Turkey ,

Turkey to give Iraq, Syria more water amid droughtDigg it
AP foreign, Thursday September 3 2009 SUZAN FRASER

Associated Press Writer= ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a change of heart, Turkey said Thursday it would strive to increase the amount of water it releases to Syria and Iraq through the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers but warned that it too was suffering from a severe drought.

Hours earlier, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz had said his country was already too overstretched with water and power demands and could not raise the flow of water any further.

Water disputes threaten to disrupt the newly warm relations between Turkey and its neighbors and complicate wider efforts to bring stability to the region, as the populations of the three countries increase and the demand for water grows.

Drought-stricken Iraq has accused upstream neighbors Turkey and Syria of taking too much from the rivers and their tributaries. Below-average rainfall and insufficient water in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have left Iraq parched for a second straight year, wrecking swaths of farmland and threatening drinking water supplies.

“It is very important and Iraq is already getting much less water due to some dams constructed in Turkey and Syria,” said Nagesh Kumar, a water expert at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. “There is potential for international conflict in this region on water disputes.”

Turkey’s environment minister, Veysel Eroglu, said his country would try to release as much water as possible over its legal obligation of 500 cubic meters per second.

“There is a serious water crisis in Iraq, we are taking this into account,” he said at the end of a meeting Thursday with the Iraqi and Syrian irrigation ministers. “But our own capabilities are limited.”

Eroglu would not say how much more water Turkey could allow its neighbors. Yildiz said Turkey was already releasing on average 517 cubic meters per second, sacrificing its own energy needs to help others.

The drought has also dealt a blow to Iraq’s hopes that reductions in sectarian violence over the last year would fuel an economic recovery. Instead, lower-than-expected oil prices have crimped government revenues and the scarcity of water is forcing Iraq to spend money to import crops like wheat and rice to meet domestic demand.

Minutes of the meeting obtained by The Associated Press said Iraq had requested 500 cubic meters per second at the Syrian-Iraqi border during September and October to help farmers during the irrigation period. That’s about twice the amount Iraq receives currently, a Turkish Energy Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

According to the minutes, Turkey said it would be difficult to increase the water flow by that amount because of the drought.

Abdul-Latif Jamal Rasheed, Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources, said Turkey and Syria had shown understanding.

“The situation in Iraq is serious, we are asking that they help us in our hour of need,” Rasheed said. “They have said that they will help us as much as they can.”

Rasheed did not say how much water was currently flowing into Iraq and there were discrepencies in the figures the ministers gave concerning water levels. Earlier, Rasheed had hinted that Syria wasn’t sending all of the water it should down to Iraq.

He said reporters “ask me at every meeting whether there will be a war over water.” ”The issue cannot be solved through war but through neighbors negotiating between them with the best of intentions,” Rasheed declared.

Nader al-Bunni, Syria’s irrigation minister, contended his country was letting more water flow into Iraq than required by agreements.

Sharing water from the Tigris and Euphrates has been a potential source of conflict since the 1970s when Turkey and Syria began constructing dams. To avoid strife, the three nations have been holding a series of water meetings — Thursday’s was the sixth gathering in the last two years.

Turkey has recently established friendly ties with Syria — a country it had long accused of harboring Kurdish rebels — and has been actively participating in Iraq’s reconstruction.

Turkey in the past has been advocating using water more efficiently through joint projects instead of increasing water flows downstream.

On Thursday, the three nations agreed to establish joint stations to measure water volume, monitor and exchange information about climate and drought, and create joint water education programs.

They will meet again in Baghdad next January.


Associated Press writers Selcan Hacaoglu and Gulden Alp contributed to this report.

September 4th, 2009, 12:21 pm


qunfuz said:


This is my review, originally published in Prospect Magazine, of The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation by Ali Allawi, former Iraqi minister and brother of Eyad. I strongly recommend the book.

September 4th, 2009, 3:15 pm


qunfuz said:


Water shortage threatens two million people in southern IraqElectricity supply to Nasiriyah has dropped by 50% because of falling levels of Euphrates river
Buzz up!
Digg it
Martin Chulov in Nasiriyah, Iraq guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 26 August 2009 17.20 BST

A water shortage described as the most critical since the earliest days of Iraq’s civilisation is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of the country without electricity and almost as many without drinking water.

An already meagre supply of electricity to Iraq’s fourth-largest city of Nasiriyah has fallen by 50% during the last three weeks because of the rapidly falling levels of the Euphrates river, which has only two of four power-generating turbines left working.

If, as predicted, the river falls by a further 20cm during the next fortnight, engineers say the remaining two turbines will also close down, forcing a total blackout in the city.

Down river, where the Euphrates spills out into the Shatt al-Arab waterway at the north-eastern corner of the Persian Gulf, the lack of fresh water has raised salinity levels so high that two towns, of about 3,000 people, on the northern edge of Basra have this week evacuated. “We can no longer drink this water,” said one local woman from the village of al-Fal. “Our animals are all dead and many people here are diseased.”

Iraqi officials have been attempting to grapple with the magnitude of the crisis for months, which, like much else in this fractured society, has many causes, both man-made and natural.

Two winters of significantly lower than normal rainfalls – half the annual average last year and one-third the year before – have followed six years of crippling instability, in which industry barely functioned and agriculture struggled to meet half of subsistence needs.

“For thousands of years Iraq’s agricultural lands were rich with planted wheat, rice and barley,” said Salah Aziz, director of planning in Iraq’s agricultural ministry, adding that land was “100% in use”.

“This year less than 50% of the land is in use and most of the yields are marginal. This year we cannot begin to cover even 40% of Iraq’s fruit and vegetable demand.”

During the last five chaotic years, many new dams and reservoirs have been built in Turkey, Syria and Iran, which share the Euphrates and its small tributaries. The effect has been to starve the Euphrates of its lifeblood, which throughout the ages has guaranteed bountiful water, even during drought. At the same time, irrigators have tried tilling marginal land in an attempt for quick yields and in all cases the projects have been abandoned.

“Not even during Saddam’s time did we face the prospect of something so grave,” said Nasiriyah’s governor, Qusey al-Ebadi. Just east of the city, the Marsh Arabs are also on the edge of a crisis – unprecedented even during the three decades of reprisals they faced under the former dictator.

“The current level of the Euphrates cannot feed the small tributaries that give water to the marshlands,” he continued. “The people there have started to dig wells for their own survival. There is no water to use for washing, because it is stagnant and contaminated. Many of the animals have contracted disease and died and people with animals are leaving their areas.”

Nowhere is Iraq’s water shortage more stark than in what used to be the marshlands. Towards the Iranian border and south to the Gulf, rigid and yellowing reeds jut from a hard-baked landscape of cracked mud.

Skiffs that once plied the lowland waters lie dry and splintering and ducks wallow in fetid green ponds that pocket the maze of feeder streams. Steel cans of drinking water bought by desperate locals line dirt roads like over-sized letter boxes.

The Euphrates, once broad and endlessly green, is now narrow and drab. In parts it is a slick black ooze, fit only for scores of bathing water buffalo. Giant pumps lay metres out of reach. Some are rusting. “Not long ago, the level of the Euphrates was at this rust line,” said Awda Khasaf, a local leader in the al-Akerya marshlands, as he pointed at the dwindling river.

“It has now dropped more than 1.5m. This river feeds all the agriculture lands and marsh lands in Nasiriyah. It smells like this because it is stagnant,” he said. “We turned to agriculture in 1991 after Saddam’s rampage, but now the government has ordered us to stop rice farming.”

Further up the river Sheikh Amar Hameed, 44, from Abart village said: “We have lost the soul of our lives with the vanishing water. We have lost everything. We are buying drinking water now. The government must find a solution. The young will all become thieves. They have no prospects.”

Iraq’s water minister, Dr Abdul Latif Rashid, this week estimated that up to 300,000 marshland residents are on the move, many of them newly uprooted and heading for nearby towns and cities that can do little to support them.

The Marsh Arabs are semi-nomadic and large numbers have remained displaced since Saddam drained the marshes in 1991.

“In the last 20-30 years our neighbouring countries have built a number of structures for collecting water or diverting water for their agricultural lands,” Dr Rashid said.

“In some cases, they have diverted the path of the river for their internal use. This has had a very damaging effect. We have a large number of branches of the Tigris that we share with Iran. In most their volumes are low, or completely dried up. In 2006/07 [the marshlands] almost reached 75% of original levels. Now the surface water is around 20%. Water resources have this year become not only serious, but critical. Iraq has not faced a water shortage like this.”

Officials have tried to compensate by digging wells and bores, especially in the ravaged provinces of the south and in Anbar, west of Baghdad. Delegations have also travelled to Turkey and Syria, where they were warmly received, but have achieved few changes. “We were expecting much more of a release from Turkey,” Dr Rashid said. “Iran has been less receptive. We have had no response from them at all.”

September 4th, 2009, 3:22 pm


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