Turkey warns of another drought year, energy crisis

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Friday February 9 10:57 AM ET

Turkey Warns of Another Drought Year, Energy Crisis

By Ercan Ersoy

ANKARA (Reuters) - A senior Turkish energy official said on Friday Turkey could face another drought this year and the country's energy shortage might worsen with lack of spring rain and snowfall.

``Rain and snowfall have been very insufficient since October,'' said Dogan Altinbilek, head of State Hydraulic Authority DSI.

``If there are not enough rains and snow in February and March, we will have a very serious drought and energy crisis,'' he told a news conference.

Turkey has been suffering from two successive years of drought that officials say is the worst in 20 years.

The government began importing electricity from its neighbors to meet a gap of seven billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power in 2000 and has since October been implementing a nationwide energy saving campaign.

Turkey has targeted to generate 131.3 billion kWh of electricity in 2001, up from 124.9 billion kWh a year ago, against a projected demand of 139.7 billion kWh this year, up from 129 billion kWh last year.

It will have a net power shortage of 3.1 billion kWh this year despite planned imports of 5.3 billion kWh, against 0.8 billion kWh of net power gap last year despite imports then of 3.3 billion kWh.

Altinbilek said water levels in three hydroelectric plant dams on the Euphrates that supply 60 percent of all hydropower in the country were down 35 percent this year over a year ago.

``Snow and rain reception have so far been at alarming levels,'' he said. ``The three big dams -- Keban, Karakaya and Ataturk -- are being operated at a minimum as water levels there are only centimeters higher than critical operation levels.''

The three plants, which in total generate 22.4 billion kWh annually, are being run only for ``two or three hours a day'' to avoid operations below critical water levels and avoid damage to turbines, he said.

``Also, irrigational water use from these dams for the arid southeastern fields is going to be limited,'' he said.

Syria Told Of Water Shortage

Altinbilek said DSI was trying its best to maintain the promised water release to Syria of 500 cubic meters a second from the Euphrates, which originates in Turkey and flows into Syria, but there were some deviations due to water collection in dams.

``We have told them about the shortage and they showed a measure of understanding. We are doing our best to fulfil the promise,'' he said.

Turkey released an average 510 cubic meters of water a second to Syria in December and 575 cubic meters a second in January, compared to 450 cubic meters a second on average last year, he said.

Water sharing from the Euphrates and Tigris has been a frequent source of complaints from Syria and Iraq.

The two say Turkey's building of dams on the rivers, which they depend on for fresh water supplies, contaminates the river water and causes fluctuations in the amount released.

-- Swissrose (cellier@azstarnet.com), February 10, 2001

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