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FAO, Aquastat 2007.
Uploaded on Thursday 16 Feb 2012
Excessive withdrawal of renewable water resources
Philippe Rekacewicz (Le Monde diplomatique), February 2006
The countries known to be experiencing stress or scarcity of water per capita are roughly those which are excessively using their renewable water resources (North Africa, Middle-East and central Asia including Afghanistan and Pakistan). Excessive use is also of concern in some of the northern European countries such as Germany, Denmark or Poland. More so, as a consequence of damming, the Tigris and Euphrates in the eastern mountains of Turkey are now considered as major hotspots where violence could easily erupt if a clear mechanism for resolving conflict is not put in place.
Turkey holds the dominant position since both the Tigris and Euphrates rise in its eastern mountains. Both rivers then flow through Syria and Iraq before draining into the Persian Gulf. Syria and Iraq are thus dependent on Turkish cooperation for the amount of water they receive.
Turkey is carrying out a US$32 billion water development scheme called the Grand Anatolia Project (GAP), which involves construction of several dams in its underdeveloped south-east, for irrigation and to generate hydro electric power (HEP). This will definitely have a negative impact on the downstream riparian states of Syria and Iraq; however it also presents an opportunity for collaboration on water-use.
Tensions tend to escalate and erupt whenever Turkey undertakes damming of the rivers. This has made Syria and Iraq continue to lobby the Arab League states to unite against Turkey on the GAP issue. In retaliation, both states have also supported the minority Kurdish Workers Party in its struggle against the Turkish government, prompting Turkey to threaten to cut off the flow of water to Syria and Iraq on more than one occasion.