For 16 months, the Turkish occupation state has blocked the waters of the Euphrates River from Syrian territory; What portends a catastrophe that threatens millions of the population of Syria and Iraq.
In this regard, our agency conducted an intervirw with Ramadan Hamza, expert on water strategies and policies and Secretary of the International Hydrogeological Association, to talk about the dangers of Turkish state practices affecting water in the region, especially trans boundary waters.
Ramadan Hamza considered that the Euphrates River is the lifeblood of both Syria and Iraq, and is currently threatened by scarcity, which may result in double environmental and humanitarian disasters; In light of the unstable political conditions in the two countries, which prevented the two countries from modernizing irrigation systems and benefiting from modern technology for the purpose of rationing water uses, he pointed out that Turkey’s imposition of its hegemony over the river came due to the weakness of the political will of Damascus and Baghdad, and that all Turkish projects within the “Al-Kab” project are incompatible with provisions of international river water laws and protocols for dealing with water quotas for international rivers shared by states.
Here is the text of the conversation:
* What is the importance of the Euphrates River for Syria and Iraq?
The importance of the Euphrates River to Syria and Iraq lies in the fact that it is the lifeblood of both of them. Where the inhabitants of the floodplain lands, especially in Iraq, have been using its waters for at least 6000 years for irrigation and agriculture, and thus, empires that depended on irrigated agriculture flourished. But because most of the watershed of the Euphrates lies within the borders of Turkey, and about 90% of the river's runoff is from the basin within the highlands (eastern Turkey); As a result of the melting of snow that occurs during the late spring and early summer and runs to Syria and Iraq, but Turkey's control over the flow of this vital river has left behind practically barren lands in the two riparian countries.
Since the mid-sixties, Turkey has planned to build major dams to take advantage of the waters of the Euphrates River. As a start, the Keban Dam has already been built in Turkey, and Turkey has planned other major hydraulic works along the column of the Euphrates River and its tributaries within its political borders. When the irrigation projects associated with these schemes are fully operational as it is now, it appears that the potential water demand for both Syria and Iraq will be greater than the flow available to the river by Turkey.
It is likely that the two countries will suffer the most as a result, and the impact will be most severe on Iraq; Because of its status as an estuary of the basin. It seems that the only permanent solution to the problem is the establishment of an international body to oversee the equitable distribution of the water resources of the Euphrates River between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. At present it seems unlikely that a permanent agreement will be reached between the three countries.
* During the past years and until today, the Turkish state has reduced the level of the Euphrates River by 60% of the agreed amount. What are the effects of these practices on the Syrian and Iraqi peoples at the present time?
According to United Nations statistics, about 5 million Syrians and 7 million Iraqis depend on the waters of the Euphrates River, which are threatened by scarcity, in light of the unstable political conditions in the two countries, which prevented the two countries from modernizing irrigation systems and benefiting from modern technology for the purpose of rationing water uses. The significant decrease in the levels of rainfall and drought, which clearly affected the lack of access to drinking water and irrigation of crops in some governorates in the two countries. This directly reflected on Syrian and Iraqi food security, and it will be more severe and harsh in the future. The policies of the Turkish government with regard to controlling the water level of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are a clear violation of the most basic human rights, and the provisions of international law regarding the share and rights of riparian countries in the rivers, and the lack of coordination and understanding with The two neighboring countries concerned with this issue, namely Syria and Iraq, will produce disastrous results for the two countries. Where the level of these two rivers in both Iraq and Syria has become shallow and shallow, compounding the drought condition associated with the scarcity of rain water; As a result of climate change, many rural residents who depend on agriculture and livestock will lose their livelihoods. Consequently, this will cause societal instability due to the increase and frequency of droughts and droughts; This leads farmers to internal displacement and resides in the margins of the main cities near their villages, and this will form poverty belts and turn farmers into other professions, which changes development plans.
* If the behavior of the Turkish state continues, what are the long-term effects, or what are the risks?
First, Turkey must be held internationally responsible for the water scarcity in Syria and Iraq, as it reduced the level of the Euphrates flow from 500 cubic meters per second, which was stipulated in the agreement concluded between Syria and Turkey in 1987, to 200 cubic meters per second, which is considered a real crime against the two Syrian peoples. And the Iraqi. And that Turkey’s control of the main “Alouk” water station, which pumps water to the city of Hasaka, was a clear indication that Turkey used water as a weapon in its war to seize the Euphrates River, at least inside Syrian territory; Therefore, it politically compromises the waters of this river by controlling the water resources to destabilize the region, which explains its reduction in the flow of the Euphrates. The use of water as a weapon is the most dangerous in all aspects, and the need to save the population of the two countries depends on a popular and governmental action, followed by an international action by the United Nations and international organizations concerned with human affairs, water, agriculture and the environment, at least to alleviate the water scarcity and drought that threatens the two countries and their food security.
* What is the extent of Ankara's commitment to international laws with regard to cross-border rivers, and the understandings concluded with Damascus and Baghdad, and how can the role of international human rights organizations that ignore the file be read?
With great regret; Turkey does not recognize the international laws regulating the affairs of these rivers, and it has not signed the 1997 United Nations Framework Convention on Common International Non-Navigational Rivers.. It uses double standards; On the one hand, Syria demands its rights over the Orontes River, as well as with Bulgaria, Greece and Georgia as it is an estuary country.. But it imposes its sovereignty over the basins of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and this is due to the weak political will of Syria and Iraq.. International human rights organizations cannot accomplish a task unless it is asked of them. Officially help in this area. Turkey did not conduct any negotiations with the countries participating in the same river basin about these projects, while planning and conducting investigations and designs based on the provisions of the international law on the sharing of the waters of common international rivers or the provisions of the World Bank and the International Dams Commission regarding stopping the financing of dam projects planned by countries and institutions on the rivers joint international negotiations and agreements with riparian countries with the same river basin are not made. Therefore, preventing the flow of the Euphrates River into Syria and Iraq is Turkey's silent weapon, especially in north and east Syria, which portends environmental and humanitarian disasters. This reveals the falsehood of Turkey's claims that it is not the cause of this catastrophe that threatens Syria and Iraq. Especially in northern and northeastern Syria, but rather it is only a result of the decline in the level of rain, because Turkey has benefited cunningly and politically deceitfully in its favor and from a geopolitical standpoint of the occupation. The Euphrates River flows completely, so more than 50 percent of the region will already suffer from severe drought.. water scarcity, fish mortality and water wells subsidence, all indicators we have tell bleak stories.. rainfall has remained less than half the normal, It is less than a third of the normal rate in other parts of the country, and the reservoirs of Syrian and Iraqi dams are almost empty because their strategic reserves have fallen to record low levels, and springs and springs that were a source of drinking and agricultural water for many villages and countryside are no longer what they were in previous years.
It is also unfortunate that the acceleration of the implementation of Turkey's projects is financially, technically and politically supported by the West and even by some United Nations organizations whose work is supposed to be to preserve the rivers' environment according to the decisions of the Earth Summits in Rio de Janeiro and others. The most important reasons for this support are purely political, related to the economic and political containment of the riparian regimes on the lower part of the two rivers. As it represents a base for development and commercial competition for Turkey, as Syria did.
* Will the Turkish state take advantage of the security chaos in Iraq and the war in Syria to divert the rivers flowing from Turkey from international rivers to Turkish rivers and conduct its policy and strategy accordingly? And thus impose its dominance in the region?
Yes and certainly, and had it not been for this chaos that Turkey created in the region and ignited the fire of civil wars, it would not have been able to exploit the water file as political blackmail in the region and empty the Syrian and Iraqi countryside of its inhabitants, especially the residents of the marshes of Iraq; by this measure, the city’s population would rise to high proportions, causing chaos; As a result of unemployment, poverty and the spread of ignorance, and the failure of development plans in the countryside, especially in the agricultural sector, and as a result, corruption, persecution, poverty and deprivation prevail in both countries.. All Turkish projects contradict the provisions of international water and river laws and protocols for dealing with water quotas for international rivers shared between States, as well as conflict with the principle of preserving the components of the river environment from the source to the estuary and the aquatic systems in the river column. In a report entitled "Euphrates Triangle", regarding the security repercussions of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, issued by the American National Defense University, 1999, the statements clearly defined the position of the United States of America and NATO regarding the construction of project, such as: It is in the interest of the United States of America Patriotism is that Turkey is safe and stable, and that Turkey is the southern stronghold of NATO, and it is on the borders of three countries that may pose a threat to the United States - Iraq, Syria and Iran.
* To what extent can we understand the seriousness of Damascus and Baghdad's handling of this file?
We do not see any seriousness on the part of the Syrian and Iraqi governments in understanding the dangers of these water crises, which have turned into water dilemmas. And here it is putting the two countries on the brink of ominous humanitarian disasters, because the drop in the level of the Euphrates threatens the loss of water reserves in the Syrian and Iraqi dams, high levels of pollution and endangerment of fisheries, i.e. the occurrence of environmental and humanitarian double disasters.” The effects of drought and harsh climate conditions such as those that The region is now engulfing, with dire consequences for people, the environment and nature, and these effects are not evenly distributed. Small and rural communities, especially the Syrian Jazira, the Iraqi Badia and the Middle Euphrates regions - many of which have a larger proportion of low-income families - often feel the worst of the effects. Freshwater ecosystems are at serious risk due to reduced water flows from Turkey, rising temperatures, and exacerbation of water quality problems due to increased concentration of salts and pollutants and low levels of oxygen. The shortage of surface water for agriculture also leads to more groundwater pumping, and the continuation of overdrafts results in property damage, drying up of water wells, and a permanent loss of groundwater storage.
* Do you not see that water security has become an urgent necessity than ever and requires immediate action to protect the interests of the two countries, especially that the water war has become more worrying than the usual war?
Harming the water security that ensures the state’s achieving self-sufficiency in water in a sustainable manner is extremely dangerous. Therefore, ensuring water security in which the supply of water responds to the demand for it from all sectors that use water, thus creating a stable situation for water resources that can be reassured, by achieving Balance (quantitative and qualitative — time and place) between the available water resources and the different water needs in the present and the future. And that the joint international waters have become clearly and clearly on the political agendas of both Turkey and Iran. When it comes to releasing Syria and Iraq's water quotas, it is noticed that the Turkish president or his Iranian counterpart interfere and draw up water politics instead of leaving this to the technical side among the structures concerned with water affairs. This is a very dangerous indicator, and reducing the flow of the Euphrates to its lowest borders towards Syria and Iraq is only a real translation of this reality by politicizing the water file and then working to make it a “commodity” for a price and activating the principle of bartering water for oil with Iraq and other requirements with Syria.! These factors will impose on Iraq and Syria, now and in the future, and necessitate the development of a joint strategy for the development and rationalization of water resources. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt wise water policies for the investments of available water resources for the purpose of building the basis for a solid economy that depends on modern and developed agriculture, away from traditional agriculture.” Before relying on oil as a rentier economy, as is the case in Iraq, especially the agricultural sector, which is the largest consumer of water at a rate of 70 to 90 percent.