Agriculture plays twice the role in the areas economy (39. 6 percent versus 17. 7 percent) that it does in the Turkish economy as a whole, while manufacturing is about half as important (11. 7 percent against 25. 2 percent) as in the entire country. The region only produces about 4 percent of the national income and ranks low in almost all aspects of development, including education and purchasing power. GDP per capita in the southeast region has been roughly 55 percent of the Turkish average (Turkish State Institute of Statistics, 1997:722). GAP is an ambitious project to narrow this gap.
When completed, it will regulate 28 percent of Turkeys total water potential, generate 27 billion kilowatts of electrical energy, and irrigate more than 4. 2 million acres of land, thus adding another 50 percent to Turkeys arable farmlands. The amount of agricultural land irrigated by the State Hydraulic Works Administration and the total hydraulic energy (42,162 billion kilowatts) generated in Turkey will be doubled. Moreover, expanding irrigation will allow the production of a larger variety and more profitable crops, hich should ease Turkeys balance-of-payments difficulties.
When the total irrigation is completed in the GAP region, the total irrigated area is projected to constitute 19 percent of the total irrigated land in Turkey (21 million acres). Power generation is as important as irrigation in GAPs plan. Dams on the Euphrates account for more than 33 percent of current hydroelectric production in the country, with another 14 percent from the Tigris. In sum, almost half the countrys total hydroelectric generation is being met from dams on these two rivers. By improving living standards, GAP is expected to reduce and perhaps reverse the persistent emigration from the area.
Finally, it is hoped that GAP will eventually solve social and economic issues that have led to armed conflict: the bulk of the Kurdish population lives in this poorest part of Turkey. Unequal distribution of land here is a major economic problem that has political implications. Some 61 percent of the farmers (about 150,000 families) own less than five hectares (12 acres), and 10 percent of the population own 75 percent of the land. The social structure has remained virtually unchanged since feudal times, with wealthy Kurdish landowners owning dozens of villages (Bruan, 1994: 26).
The tendency of all the riparian states to use the water problem as a domestic ideological tool exacerbates the problem. As Kut and Turan suggest, Water disputes may be handy to politicians in personifying real or perceived outside threats in the domestic context, and in this way serve to unite the society against foreign enemies and mobilize support for the government (1997:140). Indeed, the water issue has been effectively used in projecting the developmental needs in each country as strategic priorities and in defining water as an indispensable part of independent, autonomous development.
The maximalist positions that all parties adopt regarding this issue might indeed be explained through such ideological imperatives (Kut & Turan, 1997). Conclusion Strategic considerations and recent developments have also had a major impact on the water issue. While Turkish-Iraqi relations have been shaped by events in the Persian Gulf region, Syrias stance has been affected by the growing cooperation between Turkey and Israel. There are many reasons for this relationship, but one significant factor is Turkish concern over Syria, and this is in large part related to the water dispute.
By shifting the strategic balance toward Turkey and against Syria, the alignment also strengthened Turkeys hand in the water issue (Muslih, 1996:124). From Israels perspective Turkey is the only potential source of water imports. From the perspective of Turkey, having Israel as a credible ally on the southern border of Syria helps ease tensions over the water and related Kurdish separatist activity originating in Syria. All these developments suggest that Syria can no longer use the ethnic card in bargaining over water with Turkey.
An additional factor here is the potential for Turkish-Israeli economic cooperation related to GAP, the expansion of agribusiness that uses irrigation, and related industrial projects. An official protocol between the GAP administration and the government of Israel in conjunction with the International Cooperation and Training Center of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for instance, is underway, in which the two sides will cooperate on technology and training. In broader terms GAP could contribute to regional development, including potentially involving Syria in peaceful cooperation.
A memorandum of understanding signed between the GAP administration and the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas in Syria on June 26, 1999, for instance, aims to develop an agricultural research center in the GAP area and monitor national resource utilization. Such confidence-building measures can prove crucial for a cooperative solution to the water dispute. Although Turkey is not a direct party to the peace process it has many expectations from a developing peaceful environment in the region.
Despite being only on the periphery of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Turkeys internal and external security has suffered from terrorist and Islamic radical movements that flourish in the region. The Gulf War had devastating effects on the economy of the eastern and southeastern provinces in Turkey and contributed to rising separatist PKK activity in the area. Peaceful southern neighbors would help defuse tensions based on developmental gaps between the region and the rest of the country and increase trade.
A more peaceful Middle East, if achieved, is likely not only to ease tensions over the Euphrates-Tigris Basin but also create an environment for a cooperative solution to the issue. Delinking the water issue from the wider security concerns, Kurdish ethnic problems, focus on regional underdevelopment, and optimal utilization of water resources instead can itself be instrumental in building regional cooperation in the Middle East. References Tomanbay, Mehmet (2000).
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