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Istanbul on the verge of running out of water

  • Istanbul on the verge of running out of water
  • Lack of rainfall across Turkey leads to the most acute drought in a decade.

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Istanbul could have less than 45 days of water left in its reservoirs while other important cities across the country could run out of water in the next couple of months, reports The Guardian.

Turkey’s chamber of chemical engineers has warned that the lack of rainfall during these past months has caused a severe drought in the country, generating a worrisome situation in the country’s economic, cultural and historic center, with a population of 17 million people. The capital Ankara is also facing acute drought. At the beginning of January, Ankara’s mayor, Mansur Yavas, said the dams and reservoirs of the area had water for another 110 days approximately, before running out.

Other large cities, including İzmir and Bursa are also facing water scarcity, with dams that are around 36% and 24% full respectively. Meanwhile, farmers from Edirne province, close to Bulgaria and Greece, and areas like the Konya plain are warning of harvest failure.

Dr Akgün İlhan, a water management expert at the Istanbul Policy Center, spoke with The Guardian: “Instead of focusing on measures to keep water demand under control, Turkey insists on expanding its water supply through building more dams … Turkey has built hundreds of dams in the last two decades.

“The warning signs have been there for decades but not much has been done in practice.”

Water demand in Turkey has nearly doubled in the second half of the last century. Industrialization, climate change and a fast-growing population, from 28 million in the 1960s to 68 million in 2000, has severely affected the availability of water resources in the country, with just 1,346 cubic meters of water per capita per year.

Last year, drought and poor management dried up Turkey’s Lake Meke.

Nevertheless, Turkey has favoured economic growth despite environmental concerns, such as increasing water scarcity. It is the only G20 country apart from the US yet to ratify the 2015 Paris agreement.

“Everybody knows that water basins must be preserved, especially for these drought episodes which are becoming more severe and long term,” said Dr Ümit Şahin, who teaches global climate change and environmental politics at Istanbul’s Sabancı University.

“Yet in Istanbul, for instance, the most vital water basins, the last forests and agricultural land, [have been opened] to urban development projects … the new airport, the new Bosphorus bridge, its connection roads and highways, and the Istanbul canal project. These policies cannot solve Turkey’s drought problem.”

The city of Istanbul has pressed citizens to save water by turning of the tap while brushing their teeth or shaving and installing lower usage taps.

Authorities of the city of İzmir have announced a set of measures to tackle the drought, including digging 103 new boreholes, recycling wastewater and minimising loss and leakage by repairing ageing pipes. 

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