NATIONS WHO ROB WATER TO THE GREAT DISTRESS OF OTHERS ARE TODAY'S POWERFUL DESPOTS:
Water, which gives sustenance to life on this planet is the world's most important resource. Though we live on a planet covered by water, very little of it is accessible. More than 97 percent is seawater, which is too salty: at this point in time, desalination plants are very costly, in terms of both money and energy. Roughly another 2 percent of water resources are locked in ice and snow. That leaves a paltry 1 percent to supply drinking water, grow crops, run factories, cool power plants, and handle all the other key roles that water plays. And it's possible that up to half of that paltry 1 percent is polluted or contaminated water, which is not up to the task. As non-renewable groundwater resources are used up, the global supply of fresh water is dwindling at an alarming rate. This will lead to great tensions between nations over shared water resources.
Along with China and Brunei, Turkey refused to sign the United Nation's agreement on International Watercourses. The agreement calls for the "equitable and reasonable" sharing of rivers, whether they originate or flow into a nation. In addition, the agreement states that nations shall "take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm." Hence China and Turkey were not amenable to this water ethics of mutual cohabitation.
2.Water distress caused by China:
Out of the aforesaid nations first let us discuss how China deprives others from equitable share of river water. Although there is fresh water deriving from the ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, most of it cannot be funnelled into usable fresh water for human consumption. Tibet is often referred to as the 'Third Pole', because it is the third-largest source of water locked in ice and snow. Tibet is unique in the world as a mass provider of fresh water, via rivers, to a dozen nations downstream. Tibet is the source of major headwaters for the rivers of Asia, and additionally provides key tributaries or feeders for other rivers (such as the Ganges). There is no parallel to this situation anywhere else on the planet.
By having its hand on Asia's water tap, China is acquiring tremendous leverage over its neighbours' behaviour. That the country controlling the headwaters of major Asian rivers is also a rising superpower, with a muscular confidence increasingly on open display, only compounds the need for international pressure on Beijing to halt its appropriation of shared waters and accept some form of institutionalised co-operation. Himalayan waters are precious because they serve over a third of the planet's population. There are river-water treaties in place between India and Pakistan, and between India and Bangladesh. So why can't China be held accountable for its reckless use of water resources, and be brought to the negotiating table to make river water-sharing agreements with nations downstream? In the meantime, there should be a moratorium on big dam-building projects on the Tibetan plateau on rivers shared with nations downstream.
China is not only taking the greedy share of Tibet's water, the government is hell-bent on destructive practices that will exacerbate water problems ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂparticularly in downstream nations. China's reckless engineering projects in Tibet include mega-dams and huge water diversion projects. Not to mention pollution from mining ventures.
China has never consulted lower riparian states before undertaking dam construction upstream, although dam-building is considered a trans-border water issue. China has not ratified the UN Convention on Non-Navigable Use of International Watercourses (1997). In rejecting this 1997 United Nations convention that lays down rules on shared water resources, Beijing asserted its claim that an upstream power has the right to assert absolute territorial sovereignty over the waters on its side of the international boundary ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ or the right to divert as much water as it wishes for its needs, irrespective of the effects on a downriver state. Today, by building mega dams and reservoirs in its borderlands, China is working to re-engineer the flows of major rivers that are the lifeline of the nations downstream.
China has resolutely refused to join the Mekong River Commission ÃÂset up in 1995 to resolve issues of shared concern by the countries along the Mekong river.The Mekong is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia. It is the world's 12th-longest river and the 7th-longest in Asia. Its estimated length is 4,350 km , and it drains an area of 795,000 km2 , discharging 457 km3 of water annually.From the Tibetan Plateau the river runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma(Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 1995, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam established the Mekong River Commission to assist in the management and coordinated use of the Mekong's resources. In 1996 China and Burma (Myanmar) became only "dialogue partners" of the MRC and the six countries should work together within a cooperative framework.But till date no fruitful resolution has been achieved.China's dam construction on the Upper Mekong has already caused huge downstream impacts, especially along the Thai-Lao border where communities have suffered declining fisheries and changing water levels that have seriously affected their livelihoods.
Tsangpo-Brahmaputra, is a trans-boundary river and one of the major rivers of Asia. With its origin in the Chemayungdung glacier, located on the northern side of the Himalayas in Burang County of Tibet as the Yarlung Tsangpo River, it flows across southern Tibet to break through the Himalayas in great gorges (including the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon) and into Arunachal Pradesh (India), where it is known as Dihang or Siang. It flows southwest through the Assam Valley as Brahmaputra and south through Bangladesh as the Jamuna (not to be mistaken with Yamuna of India). In the vast Ganges Delta, it merges with the Padma, the popular name of the river Ganges in Bangladesh, and finally the Meghna and from here it is known as Meghna before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. About 2,900 km long, the Brahmaputra is an important river for irrigation and transportation. The average depth of the river is 38m and maximum depth is 120 m. The river is prone to catastrophic flooding in spring when the Himalayan snows melt. The average discharge of the river is about 19,300m3/s , and floods can reach over 100,000m3/s . It is a classic example of a braided river and is highly susceptible to channel migration and avulsion. It is also one of the few rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore. It is navigable for most of its length.
The Zangmu Dam is a gravity dam on the Brahmaputra River 9 km northwest of Gyaca in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power production using run-of-the-river technology.It is part of the Zangmu Hydropower Project and supports a 510 MW power station. Construction began in 2009 and the first generator was commissioned in November 2014. The last became operational on 13 October 2015.It is the first dam on the Brahmaputra/Yarlung Zangbo River and has caused controversy in India, which lies downstream.
As the Brahmaputra River flows into India and Bangladesh, China's plans to construct Zangmu dam on the river are with huge controversy. Reportedly, China had previously denied that they were constructing a dam on the Tsangpo-Brahmaputra River, even after the contract was awarded. In April 2010, Yang Jiechi, their Foreign Minister, officially revealed that they were in fact constructing the Zangmu Dam on the river. China has assured India that the dam is "a small project which will not have any impact on the river's downstream flow into North-East India." Indian officials such as the Arunachal Pradesh Power Minister Jabron Gamlin express that "China's constructing a dam is a cause of concern for us, but we are not certain how big this dam is and what affect it would have on people living downstream".Reportedly, China has refused requests to reduce the height of the dam but the Indian Minister of External Affairs at the time, S. M. Krishna, had asserted that India was not concerned with the dam due to its run-of-the-river design. The dam though is being "widely interpreted as a clear signal" that more dams on the river will be built in the future. In January 2013 China approved three more dams on the river as part of its Twelfth Five Year Plan. The Dagu (640 MW) and Jiexu (560 MW) dams will be constructed upstream of Zangmu and the Jiacha Dam (320 MW) downstream. This scheme will jeopardize the entire river system affecting all the downstream nations.
3.Water distress caused by Turkey:
Both Syria and Iraq accuse Turkey of choking the Euphrates and the Tigris, a struggle over water resources and access to them that was set in motion by the Turkish decision to embark on the Southeast Anatolia Project ( Anadolu Projesi, GAP). Launched with the construction of the Keban Dam in 1975 , the GAP is now a multi-sector and integrated regional development effort. Spread over nine provinces in the southeast of Turkey (Adyaman, Batman, Diyarbakir, Antep, Kilis, Siirt, Urfa, Mardin, and ÃÂÃÂÃÂrnak), it envisages the construction of 22 dams, 19 power plants and hundreds of kilometers of irrigation canals. In quantitative spatial terms, the GAP region has a surface area of more than 75,000 square kilometers, corresponding to almost 10 percent of the total surface of Turkey. The 1.7 million hectares of arable land served by the project is about 20 percent of the total irrigable land in the country, and the population in the region is about 7 million people, approximately 10 percent of the total population of the Republic of Turkey.
In 1975, Syria and Iraq had come to the brink of war when the building of both the Keban Dam in Turkey and the Tahba Dam in Syria combined with a drought to create serious problems in Iraq. In 1989, Syrian MIGs shot down a Turkish survey plane belonging to the Land Registry Directorate, allegedly in relation to water-related tensions. Turkey mobilized its forces in January 1990, when it cut the Euphrates to fill the reservoir for the Ataturk Dam, temporarily reducing the flow of water into Syria and Iraq by 75 percent. Iraq had threatened to bomb the dam, which led Turkey to threaten to cut off the water flow to Syria and Iraq completely.
Over the years, Iraq and Syria have filed numerous claims accusing Turkey of causing a water shortage. Farmers in Iraq's south face serious difficulties, driving many to despair. Alewi al-Shimmari, a rice farmer living in Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, says: "More than 50 percent of families working as farmers have left their villages and gone to the city." Al-Shimmari used to grow rice throughout his 40 hectare farm, but the drought has reduced it to only hectares. "Lands that once were green farms are now turned to desert," he notes. Syria has also accused Turkey of effectively releasing contaminated water, arguing Rivers, that water cutbacks had dangerously increased concentrations of fecal matter on irrigated fruits and vegetables, leading to an acute outbreak of cholera.Contamination and increased levels of salinity in the rivers have also contributed, it is argued, to a sharp reduction in fishing, an important source of food and livelihood..
The water cut off by the Turkish government caused Lake Assad in Syria to drop six feet in 2009 threatening lives of two million people in and around Aleppo, Syria's second largest city. Turkey, a NATO member, is strongly opposed to the current government of Syria. The Turkish border to Syria is a major supply route for weapons and foreign fighters against the Syrian government. Syria, ascribed to Turkey's water policies on the southern ouflow of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates an unstable political situation in the region in 2010. There was also a failed attempt by an illegal group from Iraq to explode one of Turkey's dams. Iraq condemns the assault but accuses Turkey of unfairly denying the fow of water. Turkey blames the Iraqi government for the attack, demands the arrest of those responsible and threatens to cut water supplies completely if Iraq didnot comply with its demands. Forces are mobilized and war loomed.
In the midst of a severe water-supply shortage in early 2009, on May 12 the Iraqi parliament pressed its government to demand a greater share of water from its neighbor Turkey. The Iraqi MPs claimed that as a result of Turkey's infrastructure work in the river basin of the Euphrates and Tigris, spring water reserves in Iraq had dropped to a total of 11 billion cubic meters, compared to 40 billion cubic meters only three years ago. Iraqi experts claim that rainfall had not been below normal levels and that the shortages had been created by Turkey, which was cutting off water flows t. while filling its newly constructed dams on the Euphrates. This then led to ongoing supply restrictions. The shortage of water in Iraq is leading to environmental disaster (including a draining and salination of the marshes in the south of the country) and displacement of its peasant population. In its resolution, the Baghdad lawmakers determined to block all agreements with Turkey unless their country be given a more equitable share of the available water supply. MP Karim al-Yaqubi, a member of the parliamentary committee on water, told Reuters: "The Iraqi parliament voted to compel the government to include an article in any agreement signed with neighbors to ensure Iraq gets a fair share of water. If it does not, it will not be voted on." The decision by the Iraqi MPs follows a longstanding disagreement with Turkey over its water policy.
The construction of dams and irrigation tunnels was originally set to be completed by 2010, but this has now been delayed by several years, if not decades, due to lack of funds. The funding problems are directly related to Turkey's dispute with Syria and Iraq over the rights to water resources. The World Bank has refused to provide loans because Turkey did not comply with the international standards for such projects. Most important, Turkey has not reached an agreement with its two southern neighbors, the other "owners" of the water in the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, on sharing the water, principally because Turkey had considered this neither necessary nore desirable former President Turgut Ozal put it: "We don't tell Arabs what to do with their oil, so we don't accept any suggestion from them about what to do with our water."
Nevertheless, Turkey did sign agreements with Iraq (1984) and Syria (1987) promising a minimum water flow of 500 cubic meters per second in the Euphrates. Tensions did not end with the signing of the agreements themselves, as these are bilateral between Turkey and its neighbors, while a tripartite agreement among the three countries is needed to deal properly with the water distribution. Also, it is not so much the average annual flow that is important but the flow of water in the dry summer growing season. A final complicating factor is that the parties do not really know how much water they share and need to divide. The flow varies greatly as a result of seasonal and year-on-year differences in snow and rainfall, compounded now by distortions as a result of the many dams and extended irrigation systems. Closer collaboration and painstaking extended efforts are needed in order to first assess the flows of water and the needs of the different parties over time and then negotiate a fair, feasible and transparent distribution system.
In the perspective of growing tensions, it must be considered a positive sign that Turkey, Syria and Iraq held a crisis summit in Ankara in 2009 (September 3) specifically to discuss the issue of drought in the region and the water flows in the Euphratesand Tigris. In the context of improved relations between Turkey and its eastern neighbours , the summit gave some ground for optimism. Unfortunately, no breakthrough was accomplished. The Iraqi minister of water resources, Latif Rashid, emphasized again that his country is facing mass migration, especially from southern parts of the country, as a consequence of both the diminishing water flows into Iraq from the two rivers and the current drought. "The situation in Iraq has never been as dire as it has been in the past two years," he asserted. Yet a request for more water was diplomatically turned down by his Turkish counterpart, Taner Yildiz, who, while acknowledging "the need for water in our neighbors," maintained that Turkey could not "allow our own water and energy management to run into problems."In short, while any negotiation may be preferred to a stand-off, the immediate outcome of the crisis summit was that national viewpoints were repeated, narrow self-interest prevailed and no concrete steps were taken to come to anything like a tripartite agreement. Water flows to Turkey's neighbors will not be increased.
THE KURDISH ISSUE
Although GAP started as an energy and irrigation project to utilize the potential of the rich water and land resources in the region, the project also turned into a key element in the Turkish state's tackling of the Kurdish issue.
First, Turkey used its water resources as a trump card in dealing at a transitional level with the PKK, an outlawed organization fighting for Kurdish rights in the region. This is especially pertinent since the "borders" of the Kurdish homeland cross today's national boundaries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, which thus hold ambiguous meaning to Kurdish fighters as they both ignore and make use of them. In addition, Kurdish organizations have manipulated the animosities between the state-actors in the region, in particular Turkey and Syria. The Turkish strategy here in deploying its water resources to political advantage is revealed by the double agreement that Turkey and Syria signed in 1987. In one part of the agreement, Turkey guaranteed a minimum annual flow of 500 cubic meters per second from the Euphrates basin to Syria; in the other, Syria promised to put an end to the activities within its borders of the PKK and radical leftist organizations considered by Turkey as terrorists .
In the years that followed, several high-ranking Turkish politicians linked the water issue to Syria's dealing with its PKK guests, or infiltrators. In 1992,Turkey's President l stated that his country would not inflict damage to Iraq and Syria if they cooperated in dealing with the PKK. In the same year, Prime Minister Demirel stated, "It is impossible to engage in negotiations over water while allowing terrorism." Foreign Minister HikmÃÂetin added, "The water issue should not be thought of as so important. If we have good relations with one another, we will not cause problems." The water issue was thus used to press Syria to end its tacit support of, or at least non-intervention in, PKK activities in its border region with Turkey, a strategy that eventually contributed to PKKleader Abdullah ÃÂÃÂÃÂcalan's leaving the country (he had, in fact, based himself and PKK operations in Syria since 1979). Turkey has also, moreover, been accused of offering Syria water in return for peace negotiations with Israel, an accusation denied in 2008 by Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.
A second way in which Turkey used its water resources in dealing with the Kurdish issue was at the level of economic development. It was around 1990 that GAP was expanded into the field of development, against the background of the rise of the PKK. The authorities had stood amazed at the massive support for the PKK, and the Regional Development Administration, established to facilitate the expansion of GAP into development, engaged in research that had to come with an explanation. According to Nilay AÃÂzok, the government searched for a more thorough understanding of the process by which millions of "mountain Turks" (as the Kurds were then referred to in official discourse) had turned into Kurds. The political problems were understood as deriving from economics in a very general way. Because the region was relatively poor, dissatisfaction and disaffection were pervasive, and the terrorists were able to channel these sentiments to their own ends. Therefore, the logic went, develop the Kurdish region economically and the "so-called" Kurdish issue would take care of itself. Simultaneously, it was thought that GAP could turn Kurds into Turks. GAP-employed social scientists argued that the introduction of modern, irrigation-based agriculture and market integration would bring a new lifestyle to the region. The importance of tribal relations and extended families would diminish, while dependency on state institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture would increase. In the course of this process, tribal Kurds would turn into modern Turks.
The approach was handicapped by several flaws. First of all, attempts to modernize agriculture did not merely produce gains, as they also increased inequalities. Large landowners were said to benefit more than small ones. Second, as a result of bad irrigation practices, large areas had to cope with salination problems. A. W. Van den Ban, a Dutch expert in agricultural extension, was forthright in his concern. "I would like to see a major increase in the size of the agricultural extension service of the Ministry of Agriculture and a large improvement in the quality of their work," he stated, "but it seems to be very difficult, if not impossible, to realize such a change." Van den Ban predicts a further degradation of soil under the influence of prevalent irrigation practices, resulting in a loss of livelihood and income.
At the economic level, therefore, the fact that economic gains do not seem to have transferred to an evaporation of the Kurdish political agenda again testifies to the very basic misapprehension of the issue by the Turkish authorities. Political grievances felt so keenly that a "war of liberation" might break out cannot really be expected to dissipate in the trickle-down of material prosperity. The most important flaw, however, was that the authorities simply could not imagine that a person could be both modern and a Kurd at the same time. In the Kemalist-oriented imagination, it is either traditional and Kurd, or modern and Turk. This illustrates the difficulties the authorities have had in accepting a Kurdish identity in modern Turkey.
Third, Turkish strategy vis-aÃÂ -vis water and the southeast involves an element of cultural destruction. This may be a rather common criticism of large-scale dam projects in areas of natural beauty occupied by local or indigenous peoples, but it takes on a new, sharper meaning in the context of the conflict between the Turkish state and its Kurdish minority. Several dams have been highly criticized for their negative impact on the cultural heritage of the Kurdish region and the population living there. Particularly notable is the Ilisu Dam, planned to drown the ancient city of Hasankeyf and its surroundings. International NGOs such as the London-based Kurdistan Human Rights Project have campaigned against the construction of the dam, criticizing the project for its negative social and cultural impact, including the forced displacement of villagers and the erasure of ancient culture in the Kurdish region.18The dam would lead to a cultural cleansing of ancient history. The threat was taken up by the World Monuments Fund, which listed the city on its 2008 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites worldwide.19Due to the campaign, Germany, Austria and Switzerland withdrew their export credit guarantees for the construction of this dam in June 2009, leaving Turkey deprived of funds but determined to continue.
The fourth and most recent development in Turkey's strategy comprises the deployment of its water as a physical barrier against insurgent activity. On July 11, 2009, the government of Turkey announced the construction of another project to utilize water resources, one that involves the construction of eleven dams in the Hakkari and Sirnak provinces along the border with Iraq and Iran. These dams are not constructed for hydroelectric power purposes. Neither will they be used for irrigation, since the area is sparsely populated. Most of its rural population was displaced in the course of the war with the PKK during the 1990s. These additional dams are being constructed as a wall of water, with the sole purpose of making it difficult for PKK guerrilla fighters to penetrate Turkey's borders. According to the authorities, the mountainous region, with its many caves, contains many cross-border trails. These are to be elongated dams, therefore, constructed in ribbon formation. With preparations for their building already started, this project will replace earlier ideas for a five-meter-high concrete wall along this border. According to Duran Kalkan, a high-ranking leader of the PKK, the Turkish army is already constructing new roads and new bases along the border: "There is a high level of military activity [along the border] within the context of the new projects to construct dams." According to Sevahir Bay , MP for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), these dams will have a negative impact on the economy and ecology in the region. He referred to the plan as being born from a "dangerous mentality." With the construction of dams as military objects, Turkey is exposing them as targets, too.
The European Union is following closely Turkey's plans and actions to utilize its water resources. In a resolution of March 12, 2008, on Turkey's progress report, the European Parliament (EP) commented on GAP's "social, ecological, cultural and geopolitical consequences, including those on the water supplies of the neighboring countries, Iraq and Syria, and calls on the Turkish government to take these issues fully into consideration, to protect the rights of the population affected and to ensure close cooperation with local and regional authorities.However, a European parliamentary delegation led by Satu Hassi, a former minister in Finland now in the European Greens, suggested in the same year that Turkey is ignoring advice and instead engaging in power politics: "The delegation got the impression that Turkey wants to turn many of these dams to existing facts before joining the EU. Insofar as Turkey is on a track towards eventual EU membership, the EU thus finds itself in the process of inheriting the conflict potential embedded in the will be stored in a series of dams with the dams. These dams are not only filled with sole intention of creating a barrier, further water, but with disputes and strife, too.
At the crisis summit held in 2009, Turkey was not inclined to give Iraq and Syria the share of water they requested. Moreoever, the future share of these two countries will be further threatened by Turkey's decision to build yet more dams. While, along the border with Iraq, water will be stored in a series of dams with the sole intention of creating a barrier, further to the south, drought is already turning fertile land into desert. As long as Turkey continues to see itself as the rightful owner of the water in the river basins, doing as it pleases, escalation and international conflict over water resources looms. The NATO and Uppsala Model UN scenarios are fictional, but not unrealistic.
The study, conducted by the Earth Institute at New York's Columbia University and published . in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, says that the fallout from a 2006-2010 drought caused more than 1 million farmers to flee to cities already feeling the strain of refugees from the Iraq War. "Rapid demographic change encourages instability," the report authors said in a statement. "Whether it was a primary or substantial factor is impossible to know, but drought can lead to devastating consequences when coupled with preexisting acute vulnerability."
Protests and the uprising in Syria began in 2011, months after the drought was over. The drought affected the area known as the Fertile Crescent, which also encompasses parts of Turkey and Iraq. The area has warmed 1 to 1.2 degrees Centigrade and has seen a 10 percent reduction in wet-season precipitation since 1900, according to the study. Although the region is prone to drought and Syria has since seen dry seasons, the rise in temperature and the drop in precipitation is more than what is expected from regular weather patterns.Syria was also vulnerable due to its enormous population boom, from 4 million in the 1950s to 22 million in the past few years, and the cultivation of crops that relied heavily on water. The drought led to the decimation of livestock herds and the doubling of cereal prices, while the country's agricultural production fell by a third.
Before the war in Syria spiraled out of control, killing more than 200,000 and leaving more than 12 million people displaced, data from the government, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations showed Syrian farming families on the move out of rural areas. During the drought, farmers could just about survive for two years before being forced to move. But with around 1.5 million refugees from the Iraq War and 1.5 million farmers seeking a better life, already crowded cities were seeing services like health care and education stretched to the limit. The refugee crisis in Syria at the time, accompanied by rising food prices and a housing shortage, sounds similar to the region's refugee crisis today. Some 95 percent of the 4 million refugees from Syria live in five countries: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon. In Lebanon, one in every five people is a Syrian refugee, according to the U.N.'s refugee agency.