Ankara without water

Ankara without water

After struggling on the phone for almost half an hour the “Blue Desk” of the Ankara Municipality was finally on the other end of the line. A young lady spoke with terrible Turkish and was most probably fed up answering the same question all day, mashing the answer that she presumed I was expecting from her, “Water in your region will start flowing late tomorrow evening.” She then consoled, “Sufficiently, it will come back before evening prayers.”

According to a folk tale, there was once a sultan fond of introducing new taxes to finance his extravagant habits. Each time after introducing new hikes he dispatched plainclothes policemen to observe the mood of the people. When they reported back that people were angry, he was told them:

“Right, it seems that everything is in order to proceed with new taxes.” One day, the plainclothes policemen came back and reported that people had started singing and dancing in the streets. Jumping off his throne, the sultan exclaimed, “Stop the hikes. We have exceeded the limits, people have gone out of control, they could do anything.”

Ankarans are like the subjects of the extravagant sultan nowadays. The country is undertaking huge, indeed gigantic, projects. Plans are underway for even bigger and crazier projects like the Istanbul Canal. But in Çankaya and most other neighborhoods of Ankara, the capital of the Turkish Republic marking this year its 90th anniversary, water is only available sometimes, while water cuts have become the routine of the day.

Does Ankara not have sufficient water resources? That problem was solved a few years ago by providing water to the capital from some Bolu reservoirs. In addition, a huge pipeline was constructed to pump not-so-tasty Kızılırmak river water – which is claimed to have been contaminated by some heavy metals – when and if needed. Those projects, as well, were long ignored by Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and could be introduced with treasury assistance only after Ankara was subjected to its worst drought ever. Similarly, the Ankara Municipality has become the champion of debt on the grounds that it was building a metro network. After no work was conducted in the Çayyolu metro line for almost a decade, the Public Works Ministry finally took over.

The latest problem in Ankara is a product of the negligence of the city’s infrastructure for more than 15 years. The municipality discovered on the last day of the recent Feast of Sacrifice holiday that changing a pump would not solve the problem, as the huge main arteries of the city have become like crunchy biscuits, bursting very easily. A pipe change on the last day of the holiday left most of Ankara’s districts without water for 78 hours. Now, almost two thirds of the city have been without running water for 48 hours, including the presidential palace and most ministries. Companies selling bottled water in Ankara are celebrating record profits with unprecedented high sales. I was joking on the internet that I would not be surprised if someone came up with the claim that Gökçek had entered into a hidden partnership with some of those bottled water companies, as such gross failure by a mayor like Gökçek cannot be without a profitable reason.

Turkey’s main problem is not the absence of a government, but the absence of a proper opposition. Did anyone hear anything from the main opposition, or the junior opposition, on Ankara’s acute water problem? No, they are busy with the headscarves of four women deputies: Should they wear it, should not they wear it?

Gentlemen, wake up. Leave “divine issues” and concentrate on worldly affairs such as Ankara’s water, and indeed its gross mismanagement problem. Offer remedies.