Turkey, water security and cholera outbreaks in Syria

Turkey is always ready to work with the UN to address humanitarian problems in a comprehensive and durable manner

Sir, – Further to “Turkey castigated over spread of cholera in Syria” (World, November 11th), the Mediterranean region, as a whole, has witnessed adverse impacts of climate change and as a result has seen the gradual decrease of water resources. The amount of water flowing from the Euphrates-Tigris river basin is not an exception. Due to the effects of climate change, precipitation in our wider region, especially in the Euphrates-Tigris basin, is at its lowest level in 30 years. Turkey (Türkiye) has been experiencing the negative consequences of climate change, especially with regards to water resources with increasingly frequent floods and much longer drought periods.

In arid and semi-arid regions where precipitation is generally limited to four or five months a year, water resources development projects, especially dams, storage systems and irrigation networks are indispensable for sustainable development. In this sense, dams contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda: UN Sustainable Development Goals under which water is a cross-cutting element. For decades, Turkey’s dams have been able to release the maximum possible amount of water downstream, even during the driest seasons.

Contrary to general perceptions, Turkey is neither a country rich in freshwater resources nor the wealthiest country in its region. Turkey is situated in a semi-arid region, and has only about a fifth of the water per capita compared to water-rich regions like North America and western Europe. It is even anticipated that Turkey will become a water-stressed country by 2030 due to climate change, as well as growing population, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation.

Each riparian country of a transboundary water system has the sovereign right to make use of the waters in its territory. Turkey has always been sensitive to the needs of her downstream neighbours.


We support the utilisation of waters in an equitable, reasonable and sustainable manner in the interest of all riparian states. The riparian states should adopt a comprehensive approach regarding this matter. Downstream countries in the basin also have a responsibility to utilise the waters sustainably and efficiently in our water-scarce region.

Accusations made against Turkey with regards to cholera outbreaks in Syria are baseless and unfair. Outbreaks of cholera in Syria occur due to years of neglected water and sanitation infrastructure and constant mismanagement. This attitude neglects to see the main causes of the problem and impedes addressing the problem effectively.

Furthermore, it is disappointing that the international community has remained indifferent to the humanitarian situation in the regions of Ras al-Ain/Tel Abyad and Al-Bab caused by electricity and water shortages, despite repeated calls made by Turkey before all parties, and our constructive approach in the field. It is this sort of selective approach to humanitarian issues that disregard basic humanitarian principles. The shortages create serious concerns for the wellbeing of local populations and undermine the fight against infectious diseases.

The outbreak has increased the need for the supply of electricity and water in these regions to a critical level. Electrical grids to the Ras al-Ain/Tel Abyad region and the water supply lines to Al-Bab region come from the south. The supply of electricity to Ras al-Ain/Tel Abyad from the Tishrin Dam, which is the source of electrical power to the region, has been cut by PKK/YPG since February 27th year.

Water is supplied from the Allouk station to Haseke through water pumps which operate on electrical power. Power cuts prevent the proper functioning of the Allouk station and eventually restrain the water supply to the south, despite the access of regular cross-line maintenance missions to the station. As of November 18th, the number of such missions is 107.

In light of this, the allegations against Turkey and the Syrian opposition that the water supply to Haseke region is deliberately cut are baseless. These allegations are motivated by an ill-intended political campaign.

Turkey, as always, is ready to work with the UN in order to address these humanitarian problems in a comprehensive and durable manner. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye,

Dublin 4.