The world as a whole has witnessed a substantial increase in water consumption during the last century stemming from rising affluence, rapid urbanization and population growth. This trend will continue in the decades to come as water resources are getting scarcer and more polluted in many parts of the world. It has been reported that some of the countries of the Middle East will suffer most and face serious water crisis during the next 25 years. In no other region is water considered as politically sensitive and strategic a resource as in the Middle East. Given the gradual worsening of hydrological and climatic conditions and the transboundary nature of the rivers of the region, water issues might lead to tensions and worsening of relations between States.
In this context, what role governments, international organizations and NGOs could play to properly address the anticipated water crisis? Turkey has made great strides in water resources development and management during the last three decades. It has the potential to play an important, constructive and beneficial role to this end. Turkey seems to be the only country where fresh water is available and it can be transported either by pipelines or tankers to the region. To this end we have introduced the concept of transfer of fresh water by sea and are planning to supply water by utilizing the unpolluted and unused waters of the rivers originating in the Taurus Mountains in the southern coast and feeding into the Mediterranean Sea.
An intergovernmental agreement between Turkey and Israel was signed concerning the purchase by Israel of treated water for a period of 20 years. The water will be shipped to Israel by purpose-built tankers. The provision of 50 million cubic meters per annum of water to Israel and the potential to transfer additional quantities might ease the pressure on the limited water resources in the Jordan River Basin. This agreement is currently ‘on hold’ but should it be implemented Israel might consider sharing more water with its neighbors.
Turkey has planned and realized various multi-purpose water infrastructures including the 32 billion US$ GAP project that is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive sustainable development projects in the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It has been internationally recognized as an example of a successful passage form simple water development to efficient water management.
Another regional project which Turkey has developed is the ‘Peace Pipeline Project’ which seeks to provide freshwater to Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States from its rivers, namely the Seyhan and the Ceyhan. According to the project, an annual amount of 2.2 billion cubic meters of fresh water will be transferred by two large diameter pipelines. The pre-feasibility has shown that the project is feasible and applicable. In the view of this author that Turkey has the will and the capacity to contribute to the establishment of an enabling environment for socio-economic development of the people of the region which in turn could enhance peace and security in the Middle East.