Authorization crisis erupts over pipeline carrying fresh water to Turkish Cyprus
Ömer Bilge-NICOSIAAs fresh water comes closer to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) from the Turkish province of Mersin through the Northern Cyprus Water Supply project for a first time, a crisis has erupted over which authority will manage the pipeline. Unless the crisis is resolved, fresh water flowing to TRNC will run the risk of being cut, according to sources close to matter.
The fresh water is already off the shores of Kyrenia through sea pipelines and will reach land Oct. 28, with an official ceremony planned to mark the project’s success. Ahead of the ceremony, an authorization crisis over the build-operate-transfer project has erupted between Turkey and the TRNC. The TRNC government has insisted on the need for the distribution of the project’s management to TRNC municipalities, contrary to protocols that were signed with Turkey. Turkey has, however, said the “bankrupted” municipalities are not qualified to run the project. Unless this crisis is resolved, the flow of fresh water to TRNC will run a legal risk, said sources.
The project was officially started in 2011 when the then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan laid the foundation of the Alaköprü Dam over the Dragos Stream in Mersin. The $1.2 billion project was completed over the following four years and it was announced that the water would first reach Nicosia on Oct. 28. The General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSİ) completed the project, which plans to transport 75 million cubic meters of fresh water to the island annually. He then completed building distribution networks within the TRNC. Some 75 percent of the 477-km long pipe installation work isn’t planned to be finished until the Oct. 28 ceremony.
The crisis then erupted due to the set of two separate project protocols between Turkey and the TRNC. A framework agreement was approved by the parliaments of both sides. Upon the protocols, management of the fresh water within the TRNC needs to be undertaken by a private company qualified in running build-operate-transfer models. Qualified companies from both Turkey and the TRNC will be able to attend the project’s management tender in Nicosia. The new TRNC government has, however, disagreed on these conditions and asked for the management rights of the project to be given to the existing municipalities. Furthermore, according to sources, 28 TRNC municipalities established a private company called BESKİ to offset the protocol obstacles. The crisis was also put on the table at the 2016 financial protocol talks between Turkey and the TRNC last week.
In response, the Turkish side called for the opening of a tender as maintenance, repair and water purification works need expertise, something that the municipalities do not have, according to Turkey, due to financial problems. The TRNC government has rejected this reasoning, as the 28 municipalities want not only to manage the pipeline but to charge the water bills as well. Unless the problem is resolved, the planned official ceremony will be postponed and fresh water flowing to the TRNC will halt, sources added.