Report by Rabab hadada: A researcher for the international center for strategic security and military studies
Department of political and international studies
Translated by Wiem sayari
The diversion of valleys and rivers or polluting water sources usually contradicts international norms and universal ethics. However,in the modern era these practices have taken a different form through the construction of large dams on the sources of water. most of the times it results inthe scarcity of water on the rest of the countries located on these Riverspaths.
International laws and charters have addressed this phenomenon by granting equitable exploitation of water sources.General legal principles have been approved such as not harming these sources added to the principle of fair use and the principle of prior notification.However; in most of water disputes these agreements and legal rules are not respected. Onlydiplomatic means and political negotiations known as water diplomacy remain. The International Court of Justice also revealed that there are multiple disputes on 263 drainage basins in the world with the presence of 40 thousand huge dams, which will make water in the future rarer than precious metals.It is more likely that the world will experience a water crisis.
Arab countries are actually experiencing an ancient water crisis due to dam projects built by neighboring countries, especially for Syria and Iraq in the Far Eastand Egypt in the Near East, as 43 percent of the freshwater resources in Arab countries originate from non-Arab countries.
Turkish Dams: A bloodyWar tool
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers originate from Iran and Turkey and they are among the causes of economic recovery in Syria and Iraq. However, Turkey is politically and economically manipulating the sources of water. Itall began with the Southeastern Anatolia Project, which includes projects to build 22 dams, including 14 dams on the Euphrates Riverand 8 dams on the Tigris River. The largest of these dams is the Ataturk Dam in the province of Urfa. The “Ilisu” dam was newly built and it dates back to a project made 23 years ago. However, the dam started operating in May 2020 amid a national celebration and the Turkish presidentRecep Tayyip Erdoganpersonally launched it. This dam will provide an annual income of 2.8 billion Turkish liras.it will also operate the “Ilisu” electrical station, which is the fourth largest station in Turkey.
This dam, which sparked widespread controversy at the national and international level, as it was built on an archaeological area, including the 12,000-year-old village of Hasankeyfand 198 other villages. The defending parties in the region have met the national and regional appeal methods. However, the European Court of human Rights stated that the protection of heritage is not a fundamental right that falls within the jurisdiction of the court.
Despite the withdrawal of international companies from the dam project, Erdogan canceled the national law related to monitoring the archaeological areas before building the dams and relied on internal funding to complete the construction of the project.
The partial operation of the dam’s turbines did not reach the degree of damage, but the filling of the dam almost cuts off the water in Iraq and reduces its water resources to 60 percent.
The use of water as a political card is usual for Turkey.In 2019 Turkey completely blocked water from Iraq and Syria, which led to the creation of a state of drought and an environmental and economic catastrophe through the escape of tons of fish in the Tigris and Euphrates streams and the destruction of agricultural crops.
The water file was one of the most important points of negotiationduring the visit of the Iraqi delegation to Turkey on December 17, 2020.But Erdogan, after his negotiations with Iraqi prime ministerMoustafa Al-Kazemi, used the Turkish dams as a mean of pressure on Iraq.One week after this visit, turkey started filling and operating the six torpedoes of the Ilisudamin a clear threat to Iraq.According to the warnings of Muhammad Al-Julihawi, head of the Federation of Agricultural Associations in Diwaniyah in southern Iraq; the country will suffer from a drought between the years 2025-2030.
It seems that Al-Kazemi negotiations failed. Depriving Iraq from water was followed by a new military operation on February 10, 2021 called Eagle Claw 2. The operation targeted the bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). After leaving Libya with a great economicloss and a dark political history, nothing was left for Erdogan except retreating again in its regional field, and he will pull its full weight in Iraq and Syria.
Since the beginning of the war, Syria has been accustomed to live with a shortage of water, electricity, and agricultural crops. In addition to the military bombardment, Erdogan, by using dams, reduced the Syrian water level to less than ¼ the amount that it is supposed to have according to international law, cutting off the lifeline of the country.
The shortage of river water leads directly to damaging the underground water stock. According to some studies and reports, Syria will need to rebuild the country with at least 2 billion cubic meters of water. Due to the drought that the country is about toface. Syria will not be able even to provide drinking water and export Energy let alone reconstruction.The crisis will continue for generations and will hinder development in the future, even if the country is politically stabilized.
In an explanation of the repercussions of Turkish dams on the Middle East region. Yeklas Scholes, an expert in water resources at Lund University, Sweden says “There will be more water shortages in the future, which leads to higher food and water prices for the poor. The impact will be greater, and it is expected that a public health crisis will be exacerbated by Poverty, poor infrastructure, and lack of good governance in these areas.
In light of political conflicts and wars, the issue of water and dams remains a major problem that worries everyone because of its importance. However; it is considered a secondary matter for Arab rulers and does not concern political powers facing armed wars. Even though they cause a process of natureextermination that leads countries towards drought and puts them under the control of the Ottoman project.
Ethiopia on the footsteps of Turkey in water despotism
The waters of the Nile crossing Egypt and Sudan originate from the Ethiopian plateau.The Ethiopian state built the Renaissance Dam, the largest dam in Africa and one of the 12 largest dams in the world. And it will result in the formation of an artificial lake with an area of 246 square kilometers and a capacity of more than 74 billion cubic meters.
The Renaissance Dam is the new version of the Millennium Dam, an Ethiopian project withan American support. It was imposed as a punishment for Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regional project, but the project was not completed. The Turkish side also intervened to support Ethiopia in the Renaissance Dam project due to the conflict between Turkey and Egypt. Turkey presented the Ataturk Dam as model to Ethiopia.
Throughout history; political pressure was put on Egyptusing the dam’s file. While building the High Dam in Egypt to prevent the Nile floods, the World Bank refused to finance the project under American pressure biased in favor of Israel, but Abdel Nasser succeeded in building the High Dam, which is a great challenge to Egypt.
The Ethiopian side took advantage of the preoccupation of neighboring countries in their political crises erupting in 2011.The construction of the dam project beganthen, and this is an evidence that the principle of goodwill in international relations was violated.As no stable political authority was formed in Egypt capable of handling the file and dealing with it until 2014.The project had gone an important way in accomplishment, and since that time, the three countries have not been able to reach an agreement that is fair in front of the intransigence of the Ethiopian side, which violated all international agreements as well as the bilateral agreement with Egypt in the year 2015.The problem become international and was raised to the Council International Security and the African Union in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
But on the other hand, Ethiopia continues to stall negotiations with both Sudan and Egypt to gain time and complete the dams filling. the upcoming negotiations, ifsuccessful, will not be of great effectiveness for the rest of the countries because the damage is already caused, as the Egyptian losses were estimated at 151 billion pounds annually during a period. The population may range from 5 to 15 years, and Egypt suffers from a water deficit estimated at 55 billion cubic meters.
Most likely, the crisis will not have a short-term solution since Ethiopia is in a position of strength and there is no real international will to pressure it in the interest of the affected countries.
According to a World Bank report, 33 countries will live in a drought crisis in 2040, including 13 Arab countries, and 140 million people will be in a state of climate displacement. Therefore, countries must work to achieve their water security with alternative solutions such as storing rainwater, as India does. However, these major projects may be released in some countries, but for countries like Iraq and Syria, political instability will prevent it.