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Chairman of TRCOLD


Turkey is not a water or energy resources rich country. It is estimated that there will be only 1 100  m3 available water per capita annually in the future. Therefore it is imperative for Turkey that all technically and economically feasible dams should be constructed even to achieve the minimum standards of living for its people. The negative approach of WCD against dams and the deficiencies of their report have also been commented in this article.

1. Introduction

At the first glance, Turkey seems water rich but in truth it doesn’t have much water. Its total run-off is estimated about 186 km3 annually. As being a country in a semi-arid climate, most of this resource is not easily exploitable. In practice, the water resources engineers assess the country’s available water at 110 km3 annually. One should keep in mind that even this figure can only be obtained after the full development of water resources by building dams and other facilities. At present, Turkey’s population is about 65 million and the demographers estimate that the population will stabilize around 95 to 100 million at the year 2050.Therefore, the available water per capita will only be around 1100 m3 annually and this figure indeed indicates that Turkey will be a poor country of water in the future, despite the full development of its water resources.

Turkey is not also a rich country from the point of energy sources. It has very limited oil. Available coal is not abundant and its quality is generally low. So every year Turkey is obliged to import most of its oil and coal needs. From the electricity usage point of view, the level of the consumption per capita in a community indicates the level of prosperity. Annually the consumption per capita in Turkey is around 1500 kWh and this is even well below the World average. On top of this, the demand of the country is growing with a rate of 7 to 8% every year. This situation also forces Turkey to develop fully its hydropower potential rapidly.

Consequently, it is indispensable for Turkey to build dams to develop its water resources for the prosperity of its people by caring also its environment and cultural heritage.

2. Water Resources of Turkey

Turkey extends from Europe to Asia over the straits of Istanbul and Çanakkale and borders Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Its total area is about 779 500 km2, about 97% of which is situated in Asia and 3% in Europe. Turkey is surrounded by four seas, the Marmara, the Aegean, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Total cost lines amount to about 8300 km.

All water resources in Turkey are thoroughly observed and evaluated through the hydrological and meteorological network extended all over the country. With a mean annual precipitation of 643 mm, it is assumed that yearly precipitations bring 501 km3 of water, while 274 km3 of this quantity return to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration from ground and water surfaces as well as from plants. 69 km3 feed the underground water reserves through infiltration from the surface, therefore a total of 186 km3 of which 158 km3 from the precipitation and 28 km3 from the underground water reserves flow into the sea and into the lakes through rivers and creeks of various sizes. Furthermore, based on flow observations it is determined that 7 km3 water flow into Turkey every year through the rivers from neighboring countries. Accordingly, Turkey’s surface flow potential is calculated as 193 (158+28+7) km3 keeping in mind that significant changes may occur every year depending on meteorological conditions. On the other hand, consumable water potential on the basis of current technology and economics is 110 km3 including the ground water resources.

Streams of Turkey do not have naturally regulated flows. They have generally wild flows varying considerable throughout the year as well as in the course of years. Droughts and floods are quite common in Turkey. This situation exists on many countries in the World such as Chine, India and South American Countries. Dams are the sole structures to tame the rivers so to hardness their water and energy.

Owing to considerable variations observed in the run-offs in terms of seasons and year, it is absolutely necessary in Turkey to have water storages in order to ensure the use of the water, when it is necessary. Consequently first priority has always been given to the construction of water storage facilities.

3. The Need For Dams

With the exclusion of small pondage dams for irrigation, there are 241 dams in operation and 112 under construction. The total number of dams built for energy production or for multi-purposes including energy production is 63.

Among the most important hydraulic structures are the dams. The main function of the dams are to store water when it is in excess and to use it at times when it is scarce but we need most. With this starting point, dams are the most important means helping to supply water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use. Additionally, dams have considerable contribution for flood and erosion protection, navigation and power generation.

Turkey has approximately 28 million ha of arable land. 26 million ha of this are irrigable. With the existing technology and economics 8.5 million ha of irrigable land is feasible to irrigate. Until now Turkey could manage to develop only half of this to be irrigated through water resources projects, mainly dams.Not only to feed its rapidly increasing population but also to contribute worlds food supply Turkey must continue its water resources development program.

To maintain an adequate standard of living about 1000 m3 of water per capita annually is necessary. It is a well-known fact that most of this amount is needed for irrigation that is food production. Remaining amount from irrigation is for drinking and commercial and industrial activities. As one of Turkish businessman stated, "Millions have lived without love. No one has lived without water".

If one recalls the fact each person in the industrialized counties today consumes 4000 to 5000 m3 of water every year, it become very evident that it is essential for Turkey to construct its storage facilities at least to be able to reach its 1100 m3/year per capita capacity in the year 2050 in order to give an appropriate living standard for its people.

Otherwise, undernourishment, famine and as a result of these, severe social problems will be unavoidable.

To achieve efficiency in water supply, the creation of reservoirs and the construction of hydraulic structures, such as dams, waterways and transfer systems are absolutely necessary.

Today, Turkey is producing approximately one third of its electricity from hydropower plants. The rest comes almost from thermal sources, which are oil, coal and natural gas mostly imported goods. Up to now Turkey could develop only one third of exploitable hydroelectric energy potential of 123 TWh/year. The need for energy and especially electricity as key form of energy is increasing very rapidly in developing countries. As being a developing country, the demand for electricity in Turkey, with the existing annual rate of increase will reach in the year 2020 to 547 TWh from 130 TWh of today.

If Turkey do not make necessary investments to develop its hydropower potential, it will mean more overburden on World’s fossil fuels and emissions of gases causing green house effects.

Hydropower is not only a clean and sustainable power resource, but also it has great advantage in the electric network regulation. So in many countries with inadequate hydropower resource, pumped storage power plants have to be built to solve this problem. Hence it will be very likely for Turkey to built some pump storage facilities in the future besides the full development of its hydropower potential.

European countries and North America, those are rich countries, have already developed most of their technically feasible water resources potential through dams. The rest of the World, mostly developing countries representing the majority of World’s population, is using less than the one fifth of their potential.

Developing countries are the ones having the highest rate of population growth. The only way to feed their people is to increase the agricultural production. The most important key to achieve this goal is to irrigate the arable land through dams. Supply of drinking water and sufficient food for people is a vital issue. For example if Turkey did not build its existing dams 22 million out of present 65 million would possibly be in starvation and absolute poverty.

The countries aware of absolute necessity of dams such as Chine, India, Turkey, Iran, Algeria and many other are very keen to develop their water resources and most of the dams under construction are in these countries.

4. Comments on WCD Report

The report "Dam and Development: A New Framework for Decision- Making", prepared by the World Commission on Dams (WCD), by using the results obtained from analysis of case studies, countries’ reviews and cross-check survey of 125 existing dams all around the world, recognizes that the benefit of dams are "considerable". However, it highlights the need to reconsider the management of freshwater resources in the context of developmental objectives. It calls for "cooperation in reconciling competing needs", and urges dam developers, governments, non-governmental organizations, and affected people to find ways of sharing the benefits of water resources equitably and sustainably.

Although the report gives a new framework for decision-making, it is worried that there were some prejudices in the preparation process. Considering the whole content of the report in general, we would find out the following impressions for the report due to its unbalanced approach to the benefits and adverse aspects of the dams:

  • It is clear that overall approach is negative concerning the role of dams, mainly generalizing adverse aspects, unsatisfactory social and economic benefits by ignoring or under-estimating the benefits especially for power generation and irrigation.
  • The conclusive points of the report were drawn by basing on the analysis of 125 dams. These dams only constitute about 0.28% of the total completed ones of 45 000. Hence the report makes a wild generalizations about problems or deficiencies of dams. That is to say some findings of the report have been based on inadequately researched data.
  • Concerning affected people, it is true sometimes it is necessary to resettle the people in the project area, but there is nothing in the report about the people whose lives are stabilized by providing them water and power.
  • Alternatives to large dams recommended by the Report as ‘near-term solutions’ are qualitatively interesting, but are not realistic on an adequate scale to meet the needs of an extra 3 billion people by the year 2050. In addition to this, the social and ecological impacts of these suggested alternatives are not discussed for comparison.
  • The report unnecessarily is trying to discuss the matters related to Transboundary Rivers. In addition to this, it was another issue of the critique that, while the countries being in the leading positions of the process have developed their water resources with about the level of 100%, the prejudiced findings of the report may probably prevent the water resources development project planned by the developing countries, such as India, Turkey, with the development level of 30%, and China.
  • It seems that WCD has forgotten the fundamental purpose of dams, which is to enhance the prosperity of nations. Dams are absolutely necessary to store water, which is not evenly distributed in space and time.
  • 40 to 80 million, this exaggerated or unconsciously extrapolated figure about the number of people displaced by the dam projects cannot be a base for the conclusions of the report. Even if it is a solid fact, it cannot still hinder to see the billions benefiting from dams with water and power supply.
  • To create a forum of local stakeholders for the development of a project continuously is not feasible. The counterpart to governments or investing institutions is the whole nation. Because certain needs arises at national level such as to feed the population. Additionally most of the countries willing to develop its water resources have democracy allowing the related groups of population to represent their interests.

5. Conclusion

In Turkey dam construction is a vital and unavoidable program for the country. It is supported by all the political parties represented in the parliament. The dams and hydroelectric power plants are producing roughly 25 billion USand 39 billion USvalue into GNP each year. The total amount is corresponding to 39,1% of GNP. This program has improved living standards of all the population especially villagers.

Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) of Turkey, an example for the socio-economic development, is a human centered and integrated regional development project carried out along with the principle of sustainable human development. The development envisaged under the GAP has the goal of creating opportunities for the people of the region fully materialize their preferences and economic potentials.

The ultimate aim of GAP is to ensure sustainable human development in the region. Therefore it is a human centered development process. Physical structures which are now being built will be the basis of human development. The aim of sustainable development will be achieved by eliminating disparities, spreading welfare, ensuring community participation and developing human resources. the combination of economic growth targets with a human development perspective envisages the transformation of the projected social change into participatory solutions specific to the eco-system and cultural make-up of the region.

GAP has been an example of good water resources management. The components of the Project have being realized by implementing modern concepts of water management, environmental conservation and women participation. This is sincerely appreciated by various Government and UN related organizations.

The following message of Secretary General of United Nations – Kofi Annan on World Water Day summaries very well the reasons why developing countries are obliged to develop their water resources:

"Access to safe water is a fundamental human need and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and social health of all people.It is an affront to human dignity.

Yet even today, clean water is a luxury that remains out of the reach of many. Worldwide, more than a billion people have no access to improved water sources, while nearly two and a half billion live without basic sanitation. These people rank among the poorest in the world – as well as the least healthy. In fact, the absence of a safe water supply contributes to an estimated 80 per cent of disease and death in the developing world.

In this new century, water, its sanitation, and its equitable distribution pose great social challenges for our world. We need to safeguard the global supply of healthy water and to ensure that everyone has access to it. Please joint me in celebrating World Water Day, and let us renew our commitment to clean, safe, and healthy water for all people."

As the last word, the suggested guidelines of WCD for the development of water resources and dams do not fit the needs and interests of Turkish people. Additionally, it is imperative for Turkey to carry out its programme for dam construction to be able to fully develop its water resources so to ensure self-sufficiency to feed its people and to supply drinking water and energy to enhance their standard of living.