One of the most important things the former UN Secretary General Butrus Ghali expected in the 1980s was the following: “The next war in in the Near East will not erupt because of politics, it will erupt because of water.”
That expectation was based on a vision that foreshadowed the scarcity of water in more than 80 countries around the world. But now, it is likely to become a worse by 2025, particularly in the countries of the Near East.
What Ghali expected 50 years ago is now confirmed by a recent human rights report. It warns that the full activation of the Turkish Ilisu dam will result in water shortage, an eruption economically and culturally. It accuses Ankara, the first turbines started operating a few days ago, of ignoring the international agreements and covenants that determine the establishment and usage of water projects.
Beginning and Reasons
In 1930, Turkey started its plans to construct the Ilisu Dam, and in late 2006, the Turkish government laid the foundation stone, only 50 km away from the Iraqi and about 45 km from the Syrian border. The cost of the project is a billion and 200 million dollars. The water storage capacity is estimated at (11-40) billion cubic meters, while the dam’s lake area is 300 square kilometers, and the hydroelectric stations attached to the dam have the power of 1200 megawatts and an annual capacity of (3830) kilowatts.
A study published by the Qantara website confirms that the agreements concluded in this regard were unjust and gave Turkey the right to use the water of others more than it would in fact need. In consequence, Iraq and Syria will lose billions of cubic meters of water, especially since Turkey has 91 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
In the event of constructing the dam, the Turkish people will be affected as well, as press reports confirm. More than 200 archaeological and ancient sites, as well as other Turkish cities inhabited by Kurds might get drowned and destroyed, especially the ancient city of Hasankeyf, a more than ten thousand years old place.
Ignoring the region’s history and culture
A report issued by Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights has warned of the negative effects on the neighboring countries Syria and Iraq, if Turkey would realize the dam project, while Iran would be less affected.
The report has touched on the historical value of the areas on which the dam is constructed. In addition to the negative effects of the dam on the cultural and archaeological heritage in the Turkish historical city of Hasankeyf with many Assyrian, Christian and Islamic monuments, the dam will also affect the region of the Mesopotamian marshes in Iraq.
The Marshes region might become a desert as a result of building this dam, because it will lose all water flow. The landscape is included in the list of the UNESCO World Heritage with a biological diversity and a multi-cultural history.
Building the dam might also cause catastrophic environmental effects, the report continues, as the level of water flowing to the Tigris River will be reduced, creating a crisis in terms of securing the drinking water as well as water needed for agriculture.
There will be more water pollution, and the impact on Iraqi industries will be huge due to the low energy generated by electric power generation plants that depend on water.
The fish wealth will be affected too, as there will be a lack of conditions for the appropriate environment to grow fish, which will result in economic damage as well.
Deliberately ignoring Syria and Iraq
Ayman Akil, director of Maat Foundation was surprised that “Turkish authorities deliberately ignored the countries that share Tigris and Euphrates when constructing the dam, despite the legal disciplines and international agreements concerning dam constructions. Those agreements state the need for coordination and cooperation between downstream and upstream countries.
Looking at the current clashes and regional disputes, the water dispute is not better than politics and ongoing wars. The instability and continuous conflict in Syria, in addition to the direct Iranian intervention in Iraq are the best proof that Turkey’s hydro power plans will not be solved. So, Turkey will offer no solutions that might benefit the interests of any of the two countries.
Turkey will continue threatening with a water war, as it does with the border war.