Entry Title: "
Turkish Blue Gold"
Category: Non-Professional, Political
Entry Description: Now more than ever, in Turkey water is a question of vital importance which raises tensions both internally and externally. At the beginning of the 80s the Turkish government launched the GAP project (Guneydoglu Anadolu Projesi), a regional development plan aimed at Southeastern Anatolia (also known as Turkish Kurdistan. Costing 32 billion dollars the project contemplates the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric plants along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, two of the main rivers of the Middle East, and it aims at enhancing social stability and economic growth in one of the country’s most disadvantaged regions.
Internally, it is a source of concern for the Kurdish minority, which is predominantly represented in the region. The construction of dams has caused and, is likely to cause, the flooding of hundreds of villages and the displacement of thousands of people. The Ilisu dam alone, which, according to the Turkish government, should be completed by 2013, will submerge 199 villages and hamlets (included the old city of Hasankeyf with its 12,000 years of history) and will force 78,000 people to have to relocate to as yet undesignated areas. The most people would move to the next big cities where already several hundred thousands displaced people from the 90ies live in bad conditions. Surveys in fact show that 80 per cent of the affected population opposes the project and document how the water quality of the reservoir will be extremely low, leading to massive fish extermination, and threatening people’s health.
Externally, the GAP aims at pursuing objectives with far reaching consequences for the Middle Eastern region as a whole. The completion of the GAP project would facilitate the exploitation and control of the watercourses of the two main Middleastern rivers, as part of a broader strategy to increase Turkey’s sphere of influence and power at the regional and international level. Counting on 230 billion cubic meters of water reserves and on the control of the Tigris and Euphrates’ springs, Turkey has powerful leverage vis-à-vis its neighbours (Syria and Iraq). Over time, indeed, the position of the Turkish government about the utilization of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates, as it confirmed by the Turkish rejection to subscribe the 1997 UN Convention for the Non-Navigational Uses of the Transboundary Watercourse, has not changed.
“This is matter of sovereignty. This is our land. We have the right to do anything we like. The water resources are Turkey’s. The oil resources are theirs (Syria and Iraq). We do not say we share their oil resources. They cannot say they share out water resources” the Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel said at the opening ceremony of the Ataturk dam in 1992.