Project of the Century
Crisis over Water Management escalates
Introduction by Ralph Kratzer
We published a lot of posts on both our websites cyprusscene and tfrnorthcyprus about the “Project of the Century”, the water pipeline which has been built between the Turkish mainland and North Cyprus to provide us with fresh water as drinking water and for irrigation.
We accompanied the project almost from the beginning and were present when it was inaugurated in October last year. To remember please click here.
Now just this worldwide unique and proud project threatens to lead to needless confrontations between Turkey and Northern Cyprus.
All revolves around the question of who should be responsible for the pipeline management on the island when the water will start to flow through the water pipes, currently being installed, to the households and farms in TRNC.
On Facebook I found an article about this topic, written by Esra Aygin for the Greek Cypriot website in-cyprus, with the headline “Water wars escalate”, as well as a similar article on another non-Cypriot Internet publication.
I personally wouldn´t call it a “war” but it is obviously a serious crisis between the two governments in TRNC and Turkey which will hopefully be resolved soon.
Water wars escalate
By Esra Aygin
The latest standoff between the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish authorities over the management of water reaching the island’s northern part from Turkey, through a trans-Mediterranean pipeline, could soon leave North Cyprus without water, money or government.
The disagreement, which has elevated into a full-blown crisis – with Turkish embassy in North Cyprus and the main coalition partner Republican Turkish Party CTP – exchanging harsh remarks – is likely to spell the end of the coalition and lead to early elections in the north as early as February, said a senior Turkish Cypriot official on condition of anonymity.
Within the framework of a state-of-the-art €500-million project, inaugurated in October, Turkey is to supply the north with 75 million cubic meters of drinking and irrigation water annually until 2040.
Turkey insists that the operating right of not only this water, but all water resources of the north, is transferred to a private company. CTP on the other hand, is refusing to leave municipalities out and rejects a private monopoly in the sector.
The water is now idle – flowing sometimes to the Panagra [Gecitköy] dam and sometimes into the sea for what officials call “technical reasons”.
The confrontation has interrupted a financial aid agreement between Turkey and North Cyprus, and the junior coalition partner National Unity Party UBP has indicated that it is not willing to stand by CTP in the prolonged confrontation.
The collapse of the [TRNC] grand coalition government with 39 seats in the 50-seat parliament at a time when the negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem have reached a sensitive stage would inevitably have an adverse impact.
Many had hoped that the controversial CTP-UBP coalition would minimise the voice of rejectionists of a solution and ensure social unity behind a future agreement.
“I don’t anticipate, think or want the coalition to collapse,” CTP leader Mehmet Ali Talat told the Cyprus Weekly, acknowledging however that this may happen.
“We want this issue to be resolved and we are open to further negotiations and new suggestions.”
The CTP party assembly voted down the latest proposal of Turkey which had allowed for Turkish Cypriot municipalities to get a 10% share from the revenue from water, which would be operated by a private international company selected through a tender.
CTP’s rejection prompted the Turkish Embassy in North Cyprus to make a harsh statement and prescribe that the “right address for the issue is not the party assembly but the council of ministers”.
“It is up to CTP to choose how it makes its decision,” responded Talat through his social media account.
Although not directly related, the quagmire has also deadlocked talks on a financial aid protocol between Turkey and North Cyprus, hindering the flow of money from Turkey leaving civil servants and pensioners without the traditional year-end bonus payments, and farmers and producers without subsidies.
“There is a very serious crisis between Turkey and the north,” said the official talking on condition of anonymity. “The standoff has affected cooperation and coordination over all other issues including the financial aid protocol.”
CTP finds itself in a very difficult position where it may have to give in to Turkey’s demands or risk not only financial stability but also political stability and a very important reunification process.