Sara Mitchell on Interstate River Conflicts: Syria/Turkey Reflections

In Sara Mitchell’s talk yesterday, I learned that interstate river conflicts cause violence within the country affected by the water issue more than between the countries in conflict – that is, there is a higher correlation between the two phenomena.  One would assume that the conflict occurring due to disagreement over river rights would cause violence between the two countries, but it seems more often the impact of the water issue (either lack of water, diminished water quality, flooding, etc) in the country being affected somehow exacerbates pre-existing tensions, or perhaps causes armed conflict.

She also pointed out that water issues cause countries to continue cooperating regardless of what their political relations look like.  For example, Mitchell pointed out that Turkey and Syria continue to cooperate on the Orontes dam, designed to support a hydro-electric plant that will generate power for both countries.  The  Guneydogu Anadolu Projesi, or GAP project, in Turkey consists of 24 dams situated in and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Iraq and Syria obtain 85% to nearly 100% of their water supply from those two rivers of the famous “Fertile Crescent” (Mitchell).  While her research on this topic is global in scope, it demonstrates why analyzing global water issues tends to bring up so many Middle Eastern conflicts.