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28 August, 2015

The Middle East water wars

Foreign Affairs has a recommendable piece on the water wars between Turkey, Syria and Iraq: Rivers of Babylon.

Turkey has build many, many dams throughout the country to provide electricity but also for farming. When I traveled in the Turkish east in the 1990s many new projects, parts of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) were visible and newly dammed water was provided to the dry regions in the south-east through open channels. A lot of this water was wasted due to vaporization but also due to the choice of water intensive news crops in a hot and often desert like region.

The water newly provided to farmers in Turkey used to flow down the Euphrates and Tigris to Syria and Iraq. Three drought years in Syria, 2006-2009, induced many farmers to leave their dry field and to move to cities where they found little work:

[...]

The lack of water is not the only reason for the wars in Syria and Iraq. But it made these countries prone to inner conflicts and vulnerable to outside meddling.

But the governments of Syria and Iraq can do little to help their farmers. While there are agreements about a minimum waterflow between Turkey, Syria and Iraq there is no ways Syria and Iraq could actually press Turkey to deliver the agreed upon waterflow.

[...]

Missing in the Foreign Affairs piece is another Turkish project which diverts even more water away from its southern neighbors. In 1974 Turkey invaded and since occupied the north of Cyprus. The occupied parts of the island were ethnically cleansed of Greek people and as many as 150,000 Turks were transferred from Turkey and settled on their land.

Turkey has now built a pipeline to provide water from onshore Turkey to the Turkish occupied part of the island:

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