Cablegate: The Widening Effects of Turkey's Drought

DE RUEHAK #1996/01 2150957
R 030957Z AUG 07 ZDK






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Turkey is experiencing its hottest and driest
summer in 78 years, and the drought is having a widening impact
across the country. Coming after a dry winter that failed to fill
water reservoirs, the drought has caused severe water shortages,
particularly in Ankara province, which instituted water rationing on
August 1. Forest fires have hit central and western Turkey,
including coastal tourism zones. Hydro-electricity production is
dropping at the same time as electricity consumption is increasing,
resulting in higher prices and possible brownouts. Turkey's
agricultural harvest will be hit hard, and food imports -- and
prices -- will increase. The Central Bank Governor cited increasing
food and electricity prices from the drought as reasons he may not
be able to cut interest rates soon. Ankara officials have expressed
concern about potential public health problems due to a shortage of
potable water. While GOT officials express confidence that they can
contain the drought's negative impact, public outcry over long-term
water rationing, higher prices, electricity shortages and a
perceived lack of timely action could catch the new government by
surprise. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Turkey is currently experiencing a record dry spell,
culminating in one of the hottest and driest summers in 78 years.
Turkey's State Water Works (DSI) Department Head for Dams, Hasan
Ozlu, told us on July 30 that Turkey has received 16.5% less rain in
2007 than 2006, resulting in water levels in reservoirs that are 12%
lower than the same period last year. Ozlu noted that this is not
the first time that Turkey has faced drought and it is prepared to
take quick action to minimize the impact of the water shortage.

Ankara's Water Crisis

3. (SBU) Murat Dogru, senior advisor to Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek,
told us that there are only 170 million cubic-meters of water
remaining in Ankara's reserves, and Ankara's daily water use is
approximately one million cubic meters. If it does not rain, Ankara
only has about five months worth of water reserves remaining. In
addition, winter snowfall, which usually provides the bulk of
Ankara's water reserves for the coming summer, will not come in time
to alleviate this year's problems. With the planned rationing,
which will completely shut off water supplies alternatively to the
north and south regions of the city every two days, water usage is
planned to be cut to 500,000 cubic-meters daily.

4. (SBU) Ankara Municipality's Water Supply Unit (ASKI) officials
told us that DSI has allocated an extra 166 million cubic meters
from Kesik Kopru dam (near Kirsehir in East Central Anatolia) on the
Kizilirmak River, but the pipes being constructed to provide this
extra supply to users will not be ready until December 2007
(although DSI officials told us it could be completed in October).
The Ankara Municipality is also building water pumping stations to
facilitate the distribution. Ankara will have 750,000 cubic meters
of water daily from this pipeline once the project is completed.

5. (SBU) Ankara is not the only city facing water shortages and
possible rationing. Water reserves in the reservoirs of the Edirne,
Tekirdag and Kirklareli provinces are only at 47% capacity. In
addition, the water level of the Manyas Lake in northwest Turkey
near Balikesir, one of Turkey's most important bodies of water, has
shrunk by more than 2 kilometers, which raises concern, particularly
for area fishermen.

Agricultural Impact

6. (SBU) DSI Head Ozlu argued that because only 5 million of
Turkey's 25 million total hectares of agricultural land require
irrigation, the drought's direct impact on farming is not
widespread. According to him, the heat wave has hurt farms mostly
in Turkey's western region, including the Menderes basin near the
Aegean coast. Grape and olive orchards in this region and fig
producers have been seriously impacted, affecting not only the
producers but also exporters. Ozlu says the east and southeast
regions received a substantial amount of rain throughout the season,
thereby leveling the amount of total water reserves in Turkey.

7. (SBU) DSI, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and
Rural Affairs (MARA), is providing water to farms from Turkey's
water reserves. In addition, in order to minimize the drought's
impact on the harvest, DSI officials have worked with farmers to

ANKARA 00001996 002 OF 003

identify wasteful practices while encouraging drip irrigation
techniques to funnel water to fruit harvesting. DSI officials told
us that the farmers and government officials have reached a
consensus on the techniques and measures to be employed, but a
resulting decline in this year's harvests cannot be avoided.

8. (SBU) Agriculture officials, however, paint a much more negative
picture and tell us that all field crops grown in the rain-fed
Central Anatolia, Aegean, and Marmara regions have been seriously
affected. Reduced harvests are expected for grains, industrial
crops such as cotton, sunflower, and sugar beets, fodder crops, and
all types of fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, Turkey is
expected to increase its annual average wheat imports from 1 MMT to
at least 2 MMT this year to meet its domestic demand, including for
flour production and pasta exports. Turkey may also import some
corn in 2007, depending on the prices of other feed grains such as
wheat and barley, and is also projected to import significant
quantities of rice and cotton.

Consequences of a Smaller Harvest

9. (SBU) During a July 30 meeting (see SEPTEL), Central Bank
Governor Durmus Yilmaz told us that even the bank's ability to
control inflation in Turkey has been affected by the weather.
Yilmaz said that one reason he may not be able to cut interest rates
as quickly as the GOT and business sectors want is because he
expects increased food and electricity prices resulting from the

Drought, Heat Increase Incidence of Forest Fires
--------------------------------------------- ---

10. (SBU) DSI and municipal officials are confident that despite the
water shortage and the heat wave, there is sufficient water
available for battling forest fires. Recently fires erupted in
Alanya/Antalya, Bodrum, and Marmaris in major coastal tourism
centers, and also in Ankara's Oran forest, which is located within
the heart of the capital. The Ankara fire department conceded that
putting out the Oran fire was difficult due to the heat and wind.

Potable Water Shortages May Affect Public Health
--------------------------------------------- ---

11. (SBU) Ankara's distance from Turkey's major water reserves makes
it a difficult area to which to pump water during times of drought.
It is not only suffering from a lack of water supply, but also from
a lack of potable water. Low-income families still rely on tap
water for drinking and officials project that water rationing will
increase water-born health problems.

Electricity Price Increases/Power Cuts Possible
--------------------------------------------- --

12. (SBU) Contrary to speculation, Ozlu refuted concerns that Turkey
would also experience sporadic electricity shortages throughout the
summer. Hydropower plants produce 30% of Turkey's electricity but
Ozlu said any shortages from these generators could be met by
increasing the capacity in other types of power facilities such as
thermal power plants. He admitted, however, that there would be an
increase in cost, which will be passed to consumers. Turkish
manufacturing industry will be negatively affected by any price
hikes in electricity. Milliyet daily reported on July 31 that Energy
Minister Guler chaired an electricity summit to discuss increased
electricity consumption caused by the heat wave. Turkey's average
electricity consumption is 520,000 megawatt-hours per day.
Consumption increased to 570,000 megawatt-hours in 2007 and peaked
at 600,000 megawatt-hours during the week of July 22. In a press
conference after the meeting, Guler said that even though
electricity consumption is higher than expected, electricity cuts
were not needed and new investments were being made to increase
production alternatives to hydropower.

Paying the Costs

13. (SBU) Comment: Short-term losses from the drought will be felt
first by farmers and exporters, then by Turkish consumers hit by
increased food and electricity prices. There may also be a

ANKARA 00001996 003 OF 003

political cost. Experts had been warning about water shortages
since Ankara received an abnormally small amount of snowfall last
winter, but government officials have been focused on elections and
other political issues. Former government officials and experts are
criticizing Mayor Gokcek for refusing to take unpopular action on
water prior to the July 22 elections for fear it could have
diminished the AK Party's showing. Four Ankara municipality
officials recently resigned over the Mayor's water rationing plan.
The government also is being criticized for not starting
construction of the new Ankara water supply pipe project before May,
delaying its completion (and the lifting of water rationing) until
December. There is potential for public outcry over long-term water
rationing, higher prices, electrical shortages and the perceived
lack of timely action to catch the new government by surprise. End

© Scoop Media

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