Water issues with northern Cyprus

Water issues with northern Cyprus

A suspended water pipeline carrying fresh water in abundance to Cyprus from Turkey could be considered far bigger than anything else that has happened in the recent history of the island, including the Turkish intervention. Every drop of water pouring into the dam lake in northern Cyprus is like a precious gem generously presented by Turkey.

A discussion has been continuing for some time. Naturally, when there was no water there was neither a discussion on how to administer it. When water started pouring in through the miraculous pipelines, a reason to quarrel also emerged about how to best make use of it.

The current problems ought to have been resolved in 2010 or sometime around then, but political Machiavellism has kept it unresolved until today. Naturally, most Turkish Cypriots, particularly the current leftist-dominated government, believe that the administration of the water must be left to the discretion of the government in northern Cyprus. That sounds fine to the ears, especially if those ears have been so sensitive all through the past decades about discussions on sovereignty, national dignity and such issues.

Indeed, would it be reasonable to leave the administration of such a source of life to the discretion of a foreign country? Even if that “foreign country” was the “upstream” or “providing” country of the life source, could it be given the privilege of deciding how that resource be administered in the “neighboring” country?

Indulging in the motherland-kinderland discussion does no good to anyone. There is a life source. That life source, generously and with a huge investment, has been brought to a close – yet isolated – country. The water provided will bring life, prosperity and civilization, but there will be a need to pay the expenses of the construction, as well as sustain and maintain it. Writing off the bill due to the pileup of northern Cyprus’ overdue bills would effectively mean the construction of the pipeline, the water itself and the maintenance costs would be “gratis” from Turkey. Can Turkey do that? Sure it can. If this country can host so many refugees and spend so many billions of dollars for such a humanitarian effort, providing water to Cyprus is nothing.

Furthermore, is it not Turkey that provides, on average, 850 million to 900 million dollars’ worth of direct and indirect assistance to the Turkish Cypriot economy? Has it ever received a payback other than some marginal people yelling, “We don’t want your money, soldiers and governor on Cyprus” from time to time at the front door of the Turkish embassy?

For a change, I must admit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been correct in his demand right from the beginning that the overstaffed and poorly administered water works or the municipal cadres of the Turkish Cypriot government cannot administer such a precious gem provided by Turkey. For practical reasons as well, there is a need for the creation of at least a private-dominated new company. In addition to the politics of administrating the water, the conditions must be created for its sale to Greek Cypriots, even if there is no Cyprus deal. If water is to be administered by a public company, Greek Cypriots will never agree to treat it as a counterpart and thus provide it some sort of “recognition.” Yes, that is an obsession but that is the reality of Cyprus as well. If Ankara and Turkish Cypriots are sincere in their remarks that water might be offered to Greek Cypriots as well, insisting on leaving it to the administration of a public company is nonsense.

That was the “political” reason why there ought to be a private-dominated new administrative company for the water brought from Turkey. Second, the current water authority in northern Cyprus, like the electricity board, is not only overstaffed and almost obsolete due to over-politicization, there is no hope that it might become an efficient institution through some sort of a reform or overhaul. If an authority cannot collect overdue water bills from even the Finance Ministry, or if we leave that aside, any of the five-star hotels that have some “political uncles,” such an important resource cannot be left to local discretion just to please some socialism-obsessed local politicians.

So far, only the first of the probable six suspended pipelines has been constructed and carrying water to northern Cyprus through “natural flow.” The reservoirs on both ends of the system can handle 10 times the water that has been foreseen for now. Tomorrow, it is not only the Greek Cypriots, but Israel and the Gulf area might even become the destination of Turkish “peace pipelines” as water becomes an even more precious resource than oil or gas in tomorrow’s world.

Next week, Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ömer Kalyoncu will be in Ankara for talks on the administration of the water. Hopefully he will be convinced to drop that ideological “public administration of water” intransigence, permitting a resolution to this problem.