After Turkey launched the construction of the Keban Dam in 1965, Syria and Iraq, which are down stream countries in Euphrates-Tigris basin, reactions began to raise. After the construction of the Atatürk Dam was completed, and filling commenced and GAP (Southeastern Anatolia Project) started to step in; the aforesaid reactions hit the top in 1990's. Although Turkey made certain attempts for the solution of the problem, these attempts were not considered as acceptable by Iraq and Syria.
According to the calculations, the hydro-electric power potential that could be assessed in terms of economy is annually 140 billion KWh in Turkey. In Turkey, 50 per cent of the hydro-electric power is produced in GAP dams. This figure corresponds to 10 per cent of Turkey's overall power generation.(1) The fact that Turkey can not ignore that much important potential.
Basic Datum Related to the Euphrates-Tigris Basin
Euphrates provides 90 per cent of water, whose average annual flow is 31,6 billion m3, from Turkey; and 10 per cent of water from the Syrian territories.(2) And Tigris provides its waters from the heights that are found in the eastern part of Turkey just like Euphrates. Tigris, which originates from the Hazar lake, enters in Iraq after drawing the Turkey-Syrian line all along 30 km right before it leaves Turkey and it composes Shatt al-arab by merging with Euphrates in Iraqi territories after it flows all along 1840 km overall. According to Kurna gauging station in Iraq, the average annual flow of the Tigris river is 52,7 billion m3. Right before the main reach of Tigris leaves Turkey, the average annual flow of Tigris in Cizre gauging station is 16,2 billion m3. After entering in Iraq, Tigris river keeps flowing by merging with many river reaches such as Great and Little Zab Rivers, Diyala River. The contribution of these river reaches to the average annual flow of Tigris river is about 31,4 m3. When the fact that the origin of the Great Zab river is found in Turkey is taken into consideration, Turkey's contribution into the Tigris river reaches to 21,3 billion m3.(3) Before merging with Euphrates, the overall annual flow of Tigris river is about 52,7 billion m3.
The Effects of the Dams over Euphrates-Tigris on Iraq and Syria
When Turkey launched the construction of the Keban Dam in 1965 over the Euphrates river; the first reactions from Iraq and Syria started to raise. After Karakaya Dam stepped in in 1987 and Atatürk Dam stepped in in 1992, the complaints increased and “water wars” scenarios were brought to agenda especially by certain external sources.
The Iraqi government has kept its claim on the vested rights on agenda through long ages on the conflict related to the use of Euphrates and Tigris river waters. According to the claim of Iraq, the fact that Mesopotamia has been irrigated by Euphrates and Tigris for thousands of years gives Iraq the vested rights on using these river waters. According to this claim, the activities of countries such as Turkey are the “subsequent uses” and these activities should not give damage to the rights of Iraq.
However, this claim, in other words the claim of vested rights on the trans-boundary waters, is not a principle that is absolutely recognized by the international law. The acquired rights could constitute if and only a single of the factors that could be evaluated for an equitable and fair use.
During the negotiations related to the use of waters of Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both Syria and Iraq put forward the idea of sharing the aforesaid waters among the three countries with a mathematical formula. However, this kind of demand is far from being accepted.
Turkey accepted the appropriation of the waters among the three countries in a rational and effective way on the use of Euphrates and Tigris rivers, as the main policy priority. With this design, Turkey presented the “Three-stage Plan for the Equitable, Rational and Optimum Use of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin Trans-boundary Waters”, which is also known in public opinion as three-stage plan in short, to Syria and Iraq in 1984. With the aforesaid plan, for the whole Euphrates-Tigris basin, gathering datum for the water and soil resources; assessing these resources; providing the appropriation that would receive the highest benefit for all of the uses in the basin were set forth.
The approach of this plan that Turkey put forward is basically ahead of the EU Water Framework Directive and the “United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses” dated 1997, which the Directive referred to. Nevertheless, as Syria and Iraq were aware of the unreality of their own water demands and as they wanted to to guarantee their water uses for the future projects, they refused this kind of integrated solution.
The active storage capacities of the Keban, Karakaya, Atatürk, Birecik and Karkamış dams, which are found over Euphrates (in Turkey), are some 60-70 billion m3 corresponding to about the double of the annual flow of the river. When the geographical impossibility of this amount of storage in river mouth countries, and the evaporation losses greater than in Turkey are taken into consideration; storing in Turkey for the whole basin appears to be the most appropriate solution. The overall active storage capacities of the Tishrin, Tabka and Al-Baath dams, which are found over Euphrates (in Syria), are around 15 billion m3. And this amount corresponds only to 50 per cent of the average annual flow of Euphrates and it cannot create a reliable capacity. Storing the waters of Euphrates river in Turkey appears to be the most rational solution both in terms of climatic characteristics and geographical reasons. The fields that are planned to be irrigated from Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Turkey are respectively; 1 million 911 thousand 203 hectares, and 601 thousand 824 hectares. As is seen, the usage including the water consumption is more in Euphrates. The overall field, which is planned to be irrigated from the Kralkızı and Tigris dams that are found over Tigris and the construction of which were completed, is around 126 thousand 80 hectares. And in the Ilısu Dam, which is considerably speculated, only power generation is aimed and any water consuming activity is not planned. And in the Cizre Dam, irrigation of an overall 120 thousand hectares of field is aimed.(4) When the fact that the average annual flow of Tigris river's main reach in Turkey is around 162 billion m3, and that it gathers most of the Tigris river waters from Iraq; and that the power generation activities would not have any effect on the flow is taken into consideration, it appears that the activities of developing water resources carries out on the Tigris river would have a considerably little effect on the flow.
As for the problem related to the Tigris river, as a matter of fact it is easier to analyze. Only 16,2 billion m3 of 52,7 billion m3, which is the average annual flow of the Tigris river, is originated from Turkey. The field of the irrigation activities planned by Turkey on the Tigris river, which provides the rest from the Iraqi territories, is the half of the Euphrates basin. So that Iraq's objection that is related to decrease in Tigris river waters does not have reasonable grounds. As a project, which does not have any irrigation objective and which aims only power generation, the Ilısu Dam should be considered as a profitable project both for Turkey and Iraq in terms of regulating the flow.
The Other Upper Riparian Rivers of Turkey
Another upper riparian basin of Turkey is the Çoruh river basin. The overall length of this river originating from Turkey is 431 km. After Çoruh river leaves the Turkish territories, it flows within the Georgian borders all along 21 km and it empties into the sea in Batum. The Çorum is a rapid-flowing river because of its high obliquity. Because of this characteristics of the river, a great deal of erosion is observed in the basin. Turkey has planned 10 dams and hydroelectric stations on this river, which carries about 5 million m3 sediments on annual basis; and providing 8,260 billion Kwh annual power generation from totally 27 facilities has been is planned.(5)
The problem, which emerged in Georgia because of the activity of making use of Turkey's Çoruh river waters, is the possibility of an outbreak of scourings as a result of the sea flows on the point where the Çoruh river empties into the Black Sea. Every year Georgia needs 5 million m3 sediments in order to prevent the scouring of the delta, which is lack of this alimentation, as a result of the deceleration of the Çoruh river's flow, which carries high amount of sedimentation, because of the dams.(6)
The Aras river, which is another trans-boundary river, is fed from snow waters in the slopes of the Palandöken mountains and from the northern part of the Bingöl mountains. The Aras river leaves Turkey in the south-end of Iğdır by passing through the border of the Pasinler Valley and through the center of the Iğdır Valley. It empties into the Hazar sea by verging between Azerbaijan and Iran. The average flow of the Aras river is 58.6 m3/sec. The maximum limit of this figure is 1024 m3/sec, and the minimum limit is 5,4 m3/sec. The average annual flow of Arpaçay is around 4,63 billion m3.(7) There is no any problem related to the Aras river.
Rivers Which Turkey Located as a Down Stream Country
Turkey is a down stream country in the Asi (Orontes) river unlike the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The Asi river is originated from the Bekaa Valley, which is in Lebanon, and it enters in the Syrian territories after it flows about 40 km. There is no any absolute data neither in terms of the length of the Asi river nor in term of its flow. Various figures exist from 248 km to 571 km related to the length of the river in different resources. The information related to the flow of the river is also considerably different. While the datum obtained from the Turkish resources indicate the annual flow of the river as 1,2 billion m3, the Syrian resources show the figure as 2,751 billion m3/year.(8)
Syria has constructed 41 dams on the Asi river. These dams are used for the irrigation and hydro-electric power generation purposes. As a result of this, Syria uses some 90 per cent of the Asi river.(9)
Another dimension of the problem on the Asi river is that Syria considers Hatay, where the Asi river empties into sea, as a part of its territories, and that Syria avoids discussing on the problem related to the use of the Asi river as a result of this.
The Meriç (Maritza) river constitutes border between Turkey and Greece. The origin of the Meriç river is the Rila Mountain Rages, which are found in Bulgaria. According to the Meriç bridge gauging station in Turkey, the average flow of the Meriç river, whose basin is 53 thousand km2, is 147 m3/sec. After originating from Bulgaria, the Meriç river flows 320 km long through the Bulgarian territories. Then the Meriç river constitutes a 240 km long border between Turkey and Greece and it empties into the Aegean Sea. Besides its main reach, the Meriç river merges with four other great reaches. These are Arda, Tunca, Kızıldeli Su (Erythropotamos) and Ergene reaches.(10)
The main problems that the Meriç river basin goes through are floods and pollution. During the summer periods, drought takes place from place to place as well. Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria have signed certain agreements separately with each others in order to fix the borders and protect them against floods. However, there is no any agreement related to the Meriç river waters among these countries.
Turkey has to utilize from the water resources both in order to assess her fields, which are favourable for the irrigated farming, and for the hydro-electric power generation. In the course of this utilization, Turkey pursues the policy of giving minimum damage both to the environment and to the down stream countries.
(1) DSİ, Su ve DSİ, DSİ Yayınları, Ankara,2009, pp.31-33.
(2) Özden Bilen, Ortadoğu Su Sorunları ve Türkiye, Ankara, 2009, TESAV Yayınları, p.43.
(3) Bilen, ibid., p.44.
(4) DSİ, Türkiye’deki Barajlar ve Hidroelektrik Santrallar, Ankara, 1999.
(5) DSİ, Su ve DSİ, Ankara, 2009, p.34.
(6) FAO, Irrıgatıon in the Middle East Region in Figures, FAO, Roma 2008, p. 178.
(7) DSİ, Su ve DSİ, DSİ, Ankara,2009, p.20.
(8) Samir Salha, Türkiye, Suriye ve Lübnan ilişkilerinde Asi Nehri Sorunu, Dış Politika Enstitüsü, 1995, p.15.
(9) Natasha Beschorner, Water and Instability in the Middle East, Adelphi paper, No: 273, 1993 p.29.
(10) Stylianos Skias ve Andreas Kallioras, “ EU Program: ‘Change in Borders’ Project: “Rivercross” Cross-Border Cooperation on the Flooding Problem of River Evros/Maritsa/Meric Basin”, Final Report, Greece, www.evroregion.org
, 2010, p.1. ; Şeyma Ordu ve Ahmet Demir, “Determination of Water Quality of Ergene River By Planning Environmental System”, Journal of Engineering and Natural Sciences-Sigma- , Vol. 25, No. 1, 2006, p.101.