TED Case Studies

     CASE NUMBER:        186
     CASE NAME:          Ataturk Dam and Environment

A.   Identification 

1.   The Issue

In the beginning of 1990, Turkey began to fill the reservoir behind
the giant Ataturk dam in the southeastern part of the country.  The
dam sits on the Euphrates river that also supplies Syria and Iraq
with a large part of its water supply.  There has been dispute
between Turkey and its neighbors regarding water supply and such
disputes can be expected to become more common as water becomes a
more valuable asset in the Middle East.  When Iraq objected to the
Turkish dams, the Turkish government stated that water was a
natural resource.  Turkey doesn't tell Iraq what do to with its oil
and Iraq should not tell Turkey what to do with its water.(1)

2.   Description

Former Turkish President Turgut Ozal decided to build a series of
22 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates river systems.  The Ataturk
dam, the world's fifth largest, is part of the Southeastern
Anatolia Project, or GAP.  GAP is designed to bring electricity to
the area and to provide irrigation to almost 30,000 square miles of
arid and semi-arid land.  The area is larger than the area of the
Benelux countries combined and will supposedly allow Turkey to grow
much of the food for the Middle East.  The venture is projected to
irrigate 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of land that will
produce an estimated $6 billion food surplus.(2)  The irrigation
would enable Turkish farmers to raise cotton, sugarbeets, tobacco,
soy beans and other cash crops instead of the grain they now raise.

The controversy is not only just over what rights a country has
over water and the politics of water, but archaeologists are also
protesting the fact that these dams are destroying many unexplored
ancient cities.   

Because of the controversy over water rights, the World Bank
refused to fund the building of the dams.  Turkey built Ataturk dam
anyway.  Anticipating its neighbors complaints, the Turks increased
water flow 50% from the Euphrates river for six weeks before
cutting the flow to a trickle in order to fill the reservoir. 
Besides the environmental problems that go along with an irrigation
project of this magnitude, Turkey has a history of strong
earthquakes that could potentially destroy Ataturk dam.  The Turks
claim the dam was designed to withstand quakes of up to eight on
the Richter scale.  

Iraq has actually threatened a regional war if its water needs are
not met.  Turkey claims that its water policy is not political, but
has been very critical of Kurds in Iraq that have been conducting
cross-border raids into Turkey.  Turkey has also conducted talks
with Israel, as well as other neighbors, about a possible joint
water project that would use a pipeline to carry water.  These
talks stalled mostly because Turkey wanted the oil producing
countries to devise a similar pipeline to bring oil to Turkey.

3.   Related Cases


4.   Author: Nathan Martz (June, 1994)

B.   LEGAL Filters
5.   Discourse and Status: DISagree and INPROGress

6.   Forum and Scope: Treaty and REGION

7.   Decision Breadth: 3 (Turkey, Syria and Iraq)                
8.   Legal Standing: Treaty
     Treaty of Friendship and Good Neighborliness (1964)         
     Between Iraq and Turkey

9.  Geography

     Geographic Domain:  Middle East [MIDEAST]
     Geographic Site:    Northern Middle East [NMID]
     Geographic Impact:  TURKEY

10.  Sub-National Factors: YES

11.  Type of Habitat: DRY
IV.  Trade Filters

12.  Type of Measure: Regulatory Ban [REGBAN]

13.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect

14.  Relation of Trade Measure to Resource Impact

a.   Directly related to product:     No    
b.   Indirectly related to product:   Yes  AGRICultural   
c.   Not related to product:          No    
d.   Related to process:              Yes  WATER 

15.  Trade Product Identification: WATER

16.  Economic Data
17.  Impact of Trade Restriction: HIGH
18.  Industry Sector: UTILity
19.  Exporters and Importers: TURKEY and MANY
     Turkey's expected water surplus could potentially supply other
countries with electricity, food and water.  Since Turkey is not
self-sufficient in oil, there may be some sort of agreement in the
future that trades oil for water.
20.  Environmental Problem Type: WATER
21.  Species
22.  Resource Impact: HIGH
23.  Urgency of Problem: HIGH
     As the population of the area increases and available water
resources are depleted, the problem of water will become very
severe.  Cholera outbreaks in this 1980s during years when  water
was scarce give us an indication of how quickly disease can spread
without adequate potable water supplies.  Food also becomes a
problem as nations have to depend on others to feed their own
24.  Substitutes: Conservation [CONSV]  
25.  Culture:  YES
     Since most nations in the Middle East do not trust one
another, they try not to be dependent on others.  This is
especially true in the area of agriculture.  Although many food
items may be cheaper to import, most of the countries prefer to
grow their own food.  This uses a very large portion of some
nations available water supplies.  For example, Jordan uses 73
percent of its water for agriculture.(3)  These water-poor
countries need to set aside enough water for domestic purposes and
then use whatever is left over for agriculture, according to some
experts.  This certainly makes economic sense, but fear and
distrust have more to do with policy in the Middle East than
economic sense.
VI.  OTHER Factors
26.  Human Rights: NO
27.  Trans-Boundary Issues: YES
     This is a trans-border issue.  What one country does with
water upstream has a significant impact on downstream countries. 
There are now legal reasons why a country has to allow water to
flow downstream, but not to do so could lead war.  Pollution, from
agricultural runoff and sewage, also has an impact on areas
downstream.  There is growing population in the region.  Syria's
population is growing at an annual rate of 3.8% a year and this can
be expected to make the water issue even more critical in the

28.  Relevant Literature

Allen, Tony.  "Middle East:  MEED Special Report on Water Policy-
     Management Must Supply and Demand."  Reuter Textline Middle
     East Economic Digest, January 24, 1994.

Armagan, Haldun.  "A few too many Flags on Tigris and Euphrates;
     Turkish Hydroelectric Plans Worry Iraq, Syria."  WorldPaper,
     October 1992, 13.

BBC Monitoring Service, Middle East " Iraqi Official Says Turkey's
     Water Policy Could Ignite Water War in Region."  BBC
     Monitoring Service, August 23, 1993.

Beschorner, Natasha.  "Middle East: Water - The Problem of Regional
     Rivalry."  Reuter Textline Middle East Economic Digest,
     January 29, 1993.

Demisar, Metin.  "Syria Urges Water-Sharing Pact over Euphrates." 
     Reuters World Service, February 5, 1994.

Maddox, Bronwen.  "The World's Tap Dries Up." The Financial Times,
     March 17, 1993, 14.

Middle East Intelligence Report.  "Official Criticizes Turkish
     Water Policy, Dam Project."  International Intelligence
     Report, Inc., August 21, 1993.  

Vesilind, Pritt J.  "The Middle East's Water:  Critical Resource." 
     National Geographic, May 1993, 38-70.

Ward, Diana Raines.  "In Anatolia, a Massive Dam Project Drowns
     Traces of an Ancient Past."  Smithsonian V. 21 (August 1990):


(1)  H. Armagan.  "A few too many Flags on Tigris and Euphrates;
Turkish Hydroelectric Plans Worry Iraq, Syria."  WorldPaper, Oct.
'92, 13.

(2)  M. Demirsar.  "Syria Urges Water-Sharing Pact over Euphrates." 
Reuters World Service.  Feb. 5, '94.

(3)  P.J. Vesilind.  " "The Middle East's Water:  Critical
Resource."  National Geographic, May 1993, 59.

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September, 1997