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Turkey, Syria, and Iraq: Great Anxiety Downstream

Via Energy Daily,  a detailed look at issues related to Turkey, Syria and Iraq’s mutual sharing of the Tigris and Euphrates’ 303,000-square-mile river basin watershed.  As the article notes:

“…For Damascus and Baghdad, the bad news is that the Euphrates’ flow is 88 percent controlled by Turkey, 9 percent by Syria and only 3 percent by Iraq. For the Tigris, Turkey controls 56 percent, Iran 12 percent and Iraq 32 percent. Given its geographic location, Syria also has to conduct negotiations with Lebanon and Jordan over trans-boundary river resources.

Turkey’s dominance of the headwaters of two of the Middle East’s most important rivers produces great anxiety downstream about Ankara’s ambitious Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi (Southeastern Anatolia Project, or GAP) integrated hydrological program, designed to develop southeast Anatolia. Giving substance to those fears, GAP’s Ataturk Dam, completed in 1993, has since cut the Euphrates’ annual flow by about a third, and if Ankara fully implements GAP, Turkish territory eventually will host 14 hydroelectric power stations and dams along the upper Euphrates, with eight more facilities situated on the Tigris.

Syria’s General Establishment for the Euphrates Dam public entity operates three hydroelectric plants that are connected to the national grid, providing about 9 percent of the country’s total electricity production. The 880-megawatt al-Thawra Dam and the newly commissioned 630-megawatt Tishreen Dam, both on the Euphrates, provide around 90 percent of the hydroelectric supply, while the Euphrates’ 75-megawatt al-Baath Dam and five other small hydro plants represent a total of 1,620 installed megawatts. Syria has 141 dams with a total storage capacity of 15.8 cubic kilometers of water, the largest being the al-Tabaqah Euphrates dam, behind which is the al-Assad Lake with a storage capacity of 11.2 cubic kilometers.

Damascus is scrambling to meet rising energy needs, driven by a high local birthrate and an emerging private sector, both producing accelerating levels of electricity consumption. Syria’s problems are compounded by living in the middle of a conflict zone, as its government also has to cope with an influx of 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, whose living requirements are estimated by Syrian authorities to be equivalent to 300,000 Syrian families, consuming an additional $1 billion in diesel, electricity and liquefied natural gas resources annually.

Specialists believe most of Syria’s available hydroelectric potential has now been harnessed, leaving Damascus forced to use diplomacy if it wishes to untangle the political and economic conundrums of increasing the hydroelectric output of its existing facilities by boosting water flow, dealing with the refugee problem produced by its downstream neighbor and increasing electrical power output while attracting foreign investment.

…Added to smoothing its diplomatic disagreements with the United States and the inflow of capital that it might bring, Syria also will have to improve its relations with both Ankara and Baghdad if all three nations are to make equitable use of the aquatic bounty of their shared rivers, but increasing efficiency and embracing new technology ultimately may prove a safer bet for Syria’s water needs than increasing its dependency on the water flows of the Tigris and Euphrates.”



This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 at 9:26 am and is filed under Iraq, Syria, Tigris-Euphrates System, Turkey.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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