Management of Crossborder Water Resource

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Iraq’s Water Resources

To understand the current water situation of Iraq, one must take in consideration that the water supply, nature and geopolitics have gone through massive changes. Here the wars that have shaped the modern history of Iraq since the 1980’s together with a decade of sanctions, have had catastrophic consequences on the freshwater resources (Rubaie 2019). Later few capital investments in water infrastructure, dam constructions of neighboring countries, environmental pollution and an increased salinity level in the water together with a fast growing population have decreased the freshwater resources additionally (United Nations 2013).
In 2015 the population of Iraq reached over 37 millions and are estimated to increase about a million a year for the next 20 years. This will place additional pressure on the already scarce freshwater resources of the country (Virginia 2019). When it comes to the water supply of Iraq 98% comes from surface water and 2% comes from groundwater (Hussain et al. 2014). Here between 90 to 100% of Iraq’s surface water supply is made up by the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates and their watersheds and tributaries (United Nations 2013). Further Iraq’s downstream position do not allow Iraq to control the flow of the Tigris and the Euphrates and does at the same time make Iraq highly vulnerable for the dam constructions of neighboring countries. This also means that 81% of Iraq’s water is controlled by its neighbors and 71% of that water comes from Turkey (Rubaie 2019). Iraq also encompasses a number of aquifers and tributaries, where the majority originates in neighboring countries (Ali et al. 2017). Also exploring the freshwater resources of Iraq in accordance with the Falkenmark indicator, Iraq was on the brink of water scarcity in the latest measurement 2014 with the water potential 1006m3 per capita (Index mundi 2014). When it comes to the climate of Iraq the rainfall is seasonal from December to April, with highest annual rainfall of 1200 mm in the north and east, while 100 mm in the southern parts of the country (Fanack Water 2016).The below figure shows the precipitation of Iraq.

Turkey’s Water Resources

The components that have contributed to the current water situation of Turkey is rapid population growth, urbanization and climate change. But also insufficiencies in water technology such as in the agricultural sector, which stands for 73% of the country’s total water use. Another reason for the challenging water situation is the increasing power generation of Turkey together with a decreased ability to fulfil the energy demand with the country’s own resources. Here about 27% of Turkey’s electricity output did in 2016 rely on hydropower (Fanack Water 2016).
Turkey’s dependency on water for hydropower, industrialization and agriculture are some of the reasons for Turkey’s extensive dam constructions on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Since the 1970s Turkey has built more than 20 dams on the Euphrates and its tributaries, among them the Ataturk dam which is the 5th largest in the world. While the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) including the construction of 22 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, estimated to grant 25% of Turkey’s electricity when completed, is the world’s largest river basin project (Tsakalidou Ilektra 2013). When it comes to the population, Turkey’s population reached 78 millions 2015 and is estimated to increase to 84 millions in 2023, which will increase the demand for freshwater additionally (Maden 2019). Moving on to the water supply of the country, Turkey is divided in 25 basins, where the majority of the water originates inside the country. Here the rivers Tigris and Euphrates make up nearly 28.4% of Turkey’s water potential as the largest basin (Fanack Water 2016).
Furthermore about 87.5% of Turkey’s total water potential, is surface water and 12.5% is groundwater, here a wide and unconstrained utilization of the surface and groundwater of the country, currently threatens the freshwater resources with extinction. Examining instead the current freshwater resources in accordance with the Falkenmark Indicator, Turkey was classified as water stressed in the latest measurement 2016 with the water potential; 1,000-1,500m3 per capita (Fanack Water 2016). While Turkey’s climate is usually described as semi-arid, contrasting types of climate can be found throughout the country. The highest annual rainfall is in the mountainous coastal regions; 1,260-2,500 mm while the lowest annual rainfall is in central Anatolia; 200-600mm (Maden 2019). The figure below presents the rainfall distribution of Turkey.

Iraq’s and Turkey’s Water Relations

The earliest water treaty between Iraq and Turkey as independent states is from 1946, this was a friendship treaty signed by King Faisal II of Iraq and the President of the Turkish Republic Ismet Inonu. But due to unpredicted population raise two decades later the water demand increased tremendously. This changed the water conditions of the two countries and lead to that Turkey started planning for dam construction (Al-Muqdadi et al. 2016:1098).
In 1975 Turkey started the construction of the GAP (Tsakalidou 2013), which was criticized by Iraq with the concerns to reduce 80% of the water flow. Those concerns resulted in a forum between Iraq and Turkey in 1980, held to discuss the regional water issues. On the forum the Joint Technical Committee (JTC) was established with the attempt to reach mutual agreements (Ibid).
Ten years after the founding of the JTC, the Atatürk dam part of the GAP project was completed, but Iraq and Turkey had still not succeeded to sign any agreements. The filling of the dam cut off the Euphrates water, hence Iraq asked to share 700 cubic m³/sec reducing 75% from Euphrates river water in Iraq temporarily. For this reason Iraq threatened to militarily attack Turkey to demolish the dam. Hence Turkey threatened to cut off the river flow completely for Iraq, while preparing forces to be ready for an Iraqi attack. Here mediating neighboring countries succeeded to avert Iraq from attacking (Ibid).
The tensed relations between Iraq and Turkey continued and in 1992 the Prime Minister of Turkey at that time, argued that Turkey does not share the oil resources of Iraq and for that reason, Iraq can not say that they share the Turkish water resources. He also stated that the water resources is the Turkish right of sovereignty. In 1996 Iraq notified Turkey that the water of Euphrates was polluted and the water level was reduced by Turkish irrigation activities and the construction of the Birecik dam (Ibid). One year later Iraq voted for the International Law Commission of the UN on the law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, while Turkey voted against it (Gruen 2000:574).
Further during the shift between the 1990’s and the 2000’s the Iraqi and Turkish water relations were frozen due to the international sanctions on Iraq, followed by the USA military attack and invasion of the country. While during 2006 to 2014 the water relation improved and Iraq and Turkey succeeded to sign a MoU over the water in 2009 (Von Bogdandy & Wolfrum 2012:51).
Later in 2009 Iraq faced a risk for food security problems and therefore requested 500 cubic m³/sec more water from Turkey. Here Turkey agreed to allow Iraq 400 cubic m³/sec, but the agreed water amount did never reach Iraq. Iraq once again requested more water 2012 for the southern marshlands affected by drought, with a similar outcome. In 2013 Turkey started the construction of the Ilisu dam, another part of the GAP project. This resulted in that the water levels of Tigris and Euphrates decreased to less than two thirds, allowing salt water from the Arabian Gulf to enter the Shatt Al-Arab river. This caused destruction of many Iraqi territories and water shortages producing an internal migration wave of about 100.000 people (Al-Muqdadi et al. 2016:1098).
Later in 2018 Iraq protested against the filling of the Ilisu dam and here Turkey agreed to temporarily halt it (Seibert 2019). Further in januari 2019 the Iraqi Ministry of Water and the Turkish Ministry of Forest and Water Affairs, prepared a second MoU which in April was at the confirmation stage (Dawood 2019). A strong factor making it possible to sign the 2019 MoU, was the temporary less tense relations between Iraq and Turkey due to the exceptionally high amount of rain from the winter 2018, filling Iraq’s water reservoir (Seibert 2019). Finally the Iraqi-Turkish water relations is much dependent on Iraq and Turkey’s water supply, making it highly vulnerable and easily affected by the climate and regional precipitation. This instability further highlights the need of sustainable agreements between Iraq and Turkey.

Previous Research

Water Conflicts in MENA

There is a consensus among scholars in a variety of disciplines, such as peace and development, conflict resolution, international relations and social antropologi, that fresh water resources and the scarcity of them are sources of conflict in MENA. Here Michael Schulz, Helena Lindholm and Jan Hultin scholars at University of Gothenburg, explain that the water shortage in the MENA has allowed the tensed relations between MENA countries to become even more strained and unstable. Lindholm and Hultin sheds lights on that the former leaders of both Jordan and Egypt have stated that they could go to war over water, as an example (Ohlson 1995:233).
Also John Bulloch and Adel Darwish in their book “Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East”, puts great weight on the complicated relations between the Middle Eastern countries worsened by the dependence on neighboring states for freshwater resources. The authors add that another issue is the increased demand the countries of the Middle East are making upon the limited supply of water of the region, arguing that this demand is the result of the goals of individual countries, which in turn depends mainly on the wish and need to maintain and expand irrigation for agriculture (Bulloch & Darwish 1993:23).
Further Schulz sheds light to a risk assessment paper by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) where the USA government aimed to point to possible places in the world where war could emerge over shared water resources. This paper warned that the Middle East held the majority of those potential crisis spots (Schulz 1995:94). He also highlights the seriousity of the water situation of the Middle East further, through the median water prices of the Middle East region, which is the highest per capita in the world (Schulz 1995:95). Additionally the MENA region is colored by other intense water conflicts, apart from the conflicts around the Tigris and Euphrates river basin. One is the conflict that revolves around the Nile river. Hultin explains that the Nile river is the longest river in the world, resulting in a river basin that includes the nine countries Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Uganda, Zaire, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya (Hultin 1995:29).
Hultin stresses that many of the riparian countries of the Nile either faces or have earlier faced different stages of water shortage. He further points to that many of those countries rely heavily on the water of the Nile, such as Egypt where almost the entire country’s water supply comes from the Nile river. Hultin further illustrates that a great fear that the Nile water would decrease or cease to flow has long existed. This fear has been embodied by the hydropolitics of the countries of the Nile river basin. An example Hultin provides is how the Egyptian dam construction, has been a way to manage the flow and to store water, which makes Egypt sensitive for the slightest regulations of the flow of the Nile, which in turn rises disputes between the reperian countries of the Nile (Hultin 1995:31).
Furthermore Kimenyi and Bmaku authors of “Governing the Nile River Basin” add that the major conict around the Nile river, has been between upstream and downstream states (Kimenyi & Bmaku 2015:52). Those authors and Hultin also touches upon the previous agreements, arguing that there has been agreements between different countries, but no agreement which include all the reperian countries of the Nile(Hultin 1995:33).
Another highly intense water conflict in the Middle East, circles around the Jordan river. Bulloch and Darwish describe this water conflict as a conflict inside the Arab-Israeli conflict, which include Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Also the authors pay attention to how a conflict perspective is between upstream and downstream countries, where Lebanon and Syria are upstream and Palestine, Israel and Jordan are downstream (Ibid). Here Lindholm sheds light on the importance of the accessibility and control over the Jordan river in the highlands of the West Bank, for the Israeli occupation of Palestine (Bulloch & Darwish 1993:51).
Lindholm further believes that the water conflict of the Jordan river is a core issue in attempts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (Lindholm 1995:55). Lastly Hultin, Lindholm and Bulloch and Darwish all agree that one of the core threads behind the Middle Eastern water conflicts are how the rapidly growing populations in the MENA countries are on a collision course with the limited water resources (Lindholm 1995:57), (Hultin 1995:31), (Bulloch & Darwish 1993:93). When it comes to the academic field of the hydropolitics of the Middle East, there is a remarkable amount of research and literature on the topic. Still much of the literature concerns the hydropolitics of the countries around the Jordan river, but there is also a valuable academic space of literature on the hydropolitics of the reperian countries of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. While the amount of modern research after 2010 on Middle Eastern hydropolitics are far from satisfying, where most of the literature on the topic available today, is from the end of the 1990s.
In the discussion of of the reperian countries of Tigris and Euphrates, Jan Schulz early defines the relation between those reperian countries in the context of their dependence on Tigris and Euphrates, as a theoretical hydropolitical security complex (Schulz 1995:91). Here the water challenges and the common dependency on the Tigris and Euphrates waters, links their national security together. He also underlines that the water shortage of Iraq, Turkey and Syria has allowed hydropolitics to become a major issue for those countries, where the risk for future water scarcity is prioritized on the very top of these countries agenda of strategic security issues. For those reasons, Schulz believes that the traditional understanding of national security, needs to be expanded to include the environmental and ecological dimensions (Schulz 1995:92-93).
Bulloch and Darwish on the other hand, illuminate the water disputes and water shortages effect on the international relations between the reperian countries of the Tigris and Euphrates. Here they explain that the water dispute and the dam construction following it, turned Syria against Turkey, and Iraq against both of them. Bulloch and Darwish also focus on how this water dispute almost waged war between the countries several times. At the same time Schulz argues that the water shortage is not alone the reason behind the conflicted relation between the reperian states of the Tigris and Euphrates, but could rather be viewed as one of the threads in the web of underlying conflict patterns and combustible security situation of the three countries (Schulz 1995:96).

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Management of Crossborder Water Resources

The literature on management of crossborder water resources, could be described as wide to a certain extent, dominated by scholars with the opinion that the water dispute between Iraq and Turkey lays in the failure in managing the water. Much focus in this field lays also on the inefficiencies in water technology and the importance of mapping the water needs and use. When it comes to literature on peace agreements over water resources, which this section intended to include, there is a highly salient lack in accessible literature in this field.
According to Schulz, the quantity of the water in the Tigris and Euphrates is not the core issue in the water conflict between Iraq and Turkey, he rather believes that the center of the conflict is the management of the water (Schulz 1995:120). Here the journalist Abu moghli adds that the water scarcity issue has arised due to the meager water management of the Tigris and Euphrates basin (Abu moghli 2015). At the same time he illuminates that a high amount of the water is wasted through uncovered canals, deficient irrigation systems and water evaporation from reservoirs (Ibid). Here the scholar Al-Muqdadi and his colleagues suggest an action plan to sum up the need of technical solutions for better and more efficient water management (Al-Muqdadi et al. 2016:1101). Further Schulz frames internal and external political problems as underlying factors, that affects the water management of Iraq and Turkey, which he believes results in infectiously tangled relations. He therefore suggests that layers of subcomplex patterns in the larger hydropolitical security complex of the riparian countries of the Tigris and Euphrates, should be identified as a step towards resolving the conflict (Schulz 1995:105-106).
On the other hand Al-Muqdadi and his colleagues point to how the negotiation environment between the countries needs to change, from a political setting to a scientific one. They also highlight how a stable water relation between Iraq and Turkey, is crucial to both sides, since Turkey’s return investments in Iraq reaches about 12 billions per year. They also illustrate the importance for Iraq as a downstream country to strive for international support as well as to implement international laws taking Iraq’s rights to the water allocations in consideration (Al-Muqdadi et al. 2016:1101). Lastly Anders Jägerskog former peace and conflict scholar at Gothenburg University, argues that water issues has developed into an inevitable part of all forms of peace negotiations in the Middle East, due to their economic importance for the region (Jägerskog 2012:16).
Although the above studies offer a range of discussions on the background to the water conflicts in MENA and the importance of hydropolitics for the reperian countries of the Tigris and Euphrates, no current research has offered an updated perspective on the water treaties of the reperian countries of the Tigris and Euphrates. This thesis will therefore expand on the current studies by adding in particular a research on the water treaties between Iraq and Turkey, two of the three reperian countries of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Table of contents :

1. Introduction
1.1 Research Problem and Aim
1.2 Research Question
1.3 Relevance to Peace and Conflict Studies
1.4 Delimitations
1.5 Thesis Outline
2. Background
2.1 Iraq’s Water Resources
2.2 Turkey’s Water Resources
2.3 Iraq’s and Turkey’s Water Relations
3. Previous Research
3.1 Water Conflicts in MENA
3.2 The Reperian Countries of Tigris and Euphrates
3.3 Management of Crossborder Water Resource
4. Theoretical Overview and Analytical Framework
4.1 Theory on Peaceful Crossborder Water Management
4.2 Theory on Environmental Peacemaking
4.3 Theory on Water Management and Cooperation in the Middle East
4.4 Theory on Positive Peace
4.5 Analytical Framework
5. Methodology
5.1 Research design
5.2 Method
5.3 Material
5.4 Source Criticism
5.5 Positionality
6. Analysis
6.1 Treaty of Friendship and Neighbourly Relations 1946
6.1.1 What themes and expressions can be found in the treaties?
6.1.2 How is the water of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and theirtributaries addressed in the treaties?
6.1.3 What are the underlying discourses reflected in the treaties?
6.2 Memorandum of Understanding 2009
6.2.1 What themes and expressions can be found in the treaties?
6.2.2 How is the water of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and theirtributaries addressed in the treaties?
6.2.3 What are the underlying discourses reflected in the treaties?
6.3 Memorandum of Understanding 2019
6.3.1 What themes and expressions can be found in the treaties?
6.3.2 How is the water of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and theirtributaries addressed in the treaties?
6.3.3 What are the underlying discourses reflected in the treaties?
7. Conclusions
7.1 Answering the Research Question
7.2 Further Research
8. References
8.1 Analysed Material
8.1 Literature


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