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Sustainable Use of Irrigation Water: The Case of Turkey

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Douglas, Ellen M.; Limbrunner, James F.; Özertan, Gökhan; Simpson, Karen E.; Terkla, David G.; Wisser, Dominik
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7190
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Europe
Subject(s): institutions
water users' associations
Abstract: "The Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) in Turkey, within the basins of Euphrates and Tigris rivers, targets construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric plants while irrigating 1.7 million ha of land at a cost of US$32 billion. Due to recent financial and political instability experienced in Turkey, in 2008, the plan is significantly revised by an Action Plan to include allocation of US$8 billion to open 800,000 ha of previously unirrigated land to irrigation by 2012. Due to the lack of appropriate incentives to conserve water in a sustainable manner, inefficient and excess irrigation by users in the GAP region have already resulted in significant environmental problems such as waterlogging and salinity. To maintain long-term sustainability of irrigation projects, decentralization of irrigation management in Turkey started in 1993. The decentralized and locally-managed Water User Associations (WUAs) are responsible for distribution of irrigation water within their boundaries. However, WUAs in GAP have already turned into economic and political institutions dominated by powerful elites, reflecting the feudal structure of the region. Informal power distribution, based for the most part on area and closeness to political parties, has also resulted in favoritism. The purpose of this paper is to assess the environmental sustainability of the GAP region, first, by considering the institutional aspects of irrigation associations and, second, by developing a new water-salt balance model for simulating potential soil salinization in the region due to expanded irrigation."

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