A dream coming true
The Turkish deputy prime minister, the environment and water works minister, the Turkish Cypriot prime minister and some members of his Cabinet, all gathered in Anamur, a small town on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, from where on bright days the silhouette of Cyprus is sometimes visible. Similarly, a sizeable crowd of dignitaries and others gathered in Geçitköy, a village in northern Cyprus. Upon the order of Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister İrsen Küçük, construction of a $700 million “life water project” from Anatolia to Cyprus got underway.
In March last year Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish Cypriot President Derviş Eroğlu jointly pressed the start button for the construction of the Alaköprü Dam in Turkey and the Geçitköy Dam in northern Cyprus. On Saturday, Küçük and Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay together launched the project, by starting the construction of a 107 kilometer pipeline across the Mediterranean, linking Cyprus with Turkey.
The project, considered by Turkish Cypriots to be the “project of the century,” is existential importance for the divided semi- (if not totally) arid Cyprus. Carrying water from Turkey to Cyprus has been on the cards since the early 1960s, but Greek Cypriot leader of the time Archbishop Makarios did not approve it on grounds that the island would become dependent to Turkey.
At issue now is construction of a pipeline that would start carrying some 75 million cubic meters of water per year to northern Cyprus, starting on March 7, 2014. Invitations have already tentatively been issued for a ceremony at 14:00 on that date, which also happens to be Eroğlu’s birthday. Within the project, not only will sufficient fresh drinking water be supplied to the Turkish Cypriots, but water from Anatolia will also be used in irrigation. Speaking at the ceremony at Anamur, Atalay delivered Turkish Cypriots very important news: Besides water, once the pipeline project is completed, Turkey will lay down an electricity connection and link northern Cyprus to the Turkish grid.
When complete, the pipeline and the electricity connection could also supply the Greek Cypriot side, if the island is unified. And - unlike the Greek Cypriots who have set the condition of Turkish Cypriots getting their share of hydrocarbon riches off the island in “return” for Greek Cypriot rule, (in times of urgency, as they did two years ago with electricity) - these resources acquired from Turkey would also be offered to Greek Cypriot use.
The importance of the water pipeline might not be appreciated by foreigners unfamiliar with the hot summer, the water shortages, and the high cost of electricity. Forget irrigation, if it wasn’t for bottled water imports Turkish Cypriots would not even have water to drink. A dream is coming true: The “green island” will perhaps start turning green once again after water from Anatolia pours in generously…
Could it contribute to peace efforts? Well, as the Turkish Cypriots are ready, if the Greek Cypriots finally develop an interest in a settlement, why not?