International Dimensions of the Water Issues of Turkey, Istanbul,12 October 2004


 İstanbul, 12 October 2004

It is a great pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience. At the outset, I would like to congratulate the organizers of this meeting, because water issues are of paramount importance for Turkey. Water is important in Turkey both for its scarcity especially in certain geographical region of the country and because water issues have international dimensions.

             I would like to congratulate the organizers also for the quality of the background documentation that they made available to us before the meeting.

This meeting takes place at an important juncture for Turkey. It takes place only a few days after the EU Commission issued an epoch making document for Turkey, namely the Progress Report on Turkey and its recommendation to the EU Council. In this document the Commission establishes that Turkey has fulfilled Copenhagen political criteria of the EU and that it is eligible for the start of the accession negotiations.

            The connection between this important development and the present meeting is that an many of the Plans of Action that constitute the main subject of our meeting is either sponsored by the EU or the EU has deep involvement in them.

            Turkey has so far benefited from many of these Plans in its capacity as a candidate country for EU membership and it will benefit in the future as an accession country and ultimately as a member country.

Turkey differs from many countries of the region because of it specificities on the questions pertaining to water. It is located in a geographical area that is poor in water resources. The countries rich in water resources such as Canada or Norway have around 8 to 10 thousand m3 utilisable water per person per year. In Turkey, this figure is roughly 1 830 m3 per person per year. In other words, Turkey’s utilisable water resources are five times less than the water rich countries. This quantity is higher than in Syria, but less than many other countries of the region such as Iraq, Georgia etc. Consequently, Turkey is regarded as a water rich country as compared to certain countries in the region and as water poor as compared to others.

Turkey is an upstream country for two important rivers, namely Euphrates and Tigris. These two rivers, together with the Nile, are the most important watercourses in the entire Middle East.

Apart from Euphrates and Tigris, Turkey is an upstream country for several other

trans-boundary watercourses.

Turkey is a downstream country for the river Maritsa and Tundzha that comes from Bulgaria and for the river Arda that comes from Greece as well as for the river Orontes that comes from Syria.

The water resources are unevenly distributed between various geographical regions of Turkey. Precipitation in the Eastern Black Sea region is about 2500 mm per year while in other regions of Turkey, such as the central Anatolian plateau, it goes down as low as 230 mm per year.

This brief introduction demonstrates that Turkey is a country that falls within the categories of upstream and downstream countries and water rich and water poor countries at the same time. Therefore Turkey has interest in all aspects of sustainable development policies whether they pertain to water rich or water poor countries, to upstream or downstream countries.

Another important feature of Turkey is that it is both a Mediterranean and Black Sea country. The Turkish Straits allow the water of the entire Black Sea watershed pass to the Mediterranean Sea. The pollution of the rivers falling into the Black Sea affects therefore Turkey and the entire Mediterranean Sea and all riparian countries of the Mediterranean. Major rivers that fall into this category are Danube, Dnieper, Dniester and Don. In addition to these, there are numerous rivers short in size but with abundant water. They all contribute to the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea. Any cooperation initiative has to include therefore the entire Mediterranean watershed including the Black Sea.

I am glad to see in the background documents that “sustainable management of marine and costal zones will be among the priority areas of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD)”. I am confident that the drafting process that is under way for the MSSD will not exclude this important dimension of the environment problem of the Mediterranean basin. Contribution to the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by a major river that falls into the Black Sea such as Danube may be bigger than several medium size rivers that fall directly into the Mediterranean.

I would be failing my duty if I did not pay a special tribute to the efforts made by the UNDP Office in Ankara for the achievement of the goals contained in various international documents pertaining to the subject matter of our Conference. It makes these efforts by combining the tasks contained in the Millennium Development Goals with the tasks contained in various Programs sponsored by the EU and in the national Five-Year Development Plans of Turkey. The UNDP Ankara Office tries to involve in its work as many stakeholders as possible from Turkey or abroad.

Perhaps the most important dimension of the sustainability is the prevention of the pollution of the water resources in the Mediterranean watershed. Turkey offers special advantages as far as prevention of the pollution is concerned: An important part of the sources of water in Turkey are snow-capped mountains. Density of population is very low, polluting industries are almost non-existent. Utilisation of chemical fertilizers is not widespread. The topography is suitable for organic farming, because in most areas it may start from high altitude and may gradually spread towards lower altitudes.

For these reasons Turkey should get involved very closely in as many sustainable development projects as possible in the Mediterranean basin, because it costs much less to prevent pollution in the first place rather than letting a country to pollute the environment and then try to eliminate the negative consequences of the pollution.

I am confident that the relevant Turkish authorities will make every possible effort to cooperate as closely as possible with the international community and especially the EU and UNDP.

In my capacity as a Turkish Parliamentarian I extend my full support to the effort to secure the involvement and contribution of the Members of the Mediterranean Parliaments in the MSSD process and its consequent translation into National Strategies for Sustainable Development. I also welcome the approach adopted for the preparatory process of the MSSD whereby active participation of NGOs, Local Authorities and the private sector is encouraged.

Looking at the multitude of Plans drawn up and put into action by various international institutions, I wonder sometimes whether we do not cause a pollution of Plans. It may be confusing for national authorities to chose the most appropriate Plan for their national strategies when there are too many Plans around. Therefore it may be worth sparing more resources and time to look why previous Plans were not as successful as expected and drawing up methods to remedy the discrepancies rather than launching new ones.

It is good to embrace big ideals. The ultimate objective of the Plans should always remain big, but this should not lead us to a situation where we have an excellent Plan but none of its goals is achieved.

I would like to congratulate once more the organizers for this timely initiative and thank them for having chosen Turkey as the venue of this important Conference.

And thank you all for your attention.

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