The Northern Cyprus Water Supply Project, dubbed “the project of the century,” is an international water diversion project designed to supply water for drinking and irrigation from southern Turkey to Turkish Cyprus via a pipeline under the Mediterranean Sea. The pipeline came online recently after a $1.6-billion Turkish Liras investment, but the water has been piped into the sea rather than households due to an authorization crisis, which has also negatively affected the financial protocol between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus.
The water crisis erupted over who would collect the bills. The Turkish Cypriot government wanted a company established by its municipalities to collect the water bills. The Turkish side has, however, opposed this idea and said the water is given to Turkish Cyprus free of charge, adding that the water distribution costs should be undertaken by the Turkish Cypriot side.
The Turkish side has also said the existing distribution network needed to be renewed for an additional 600 million liras, according to sources close to the matter. Turkey has also said the bill charging rates in the existing municipalities were fairly low, so these municipalities could not make any additional investment in the network, adding that private companies should be involved in the process in a competitive climate.
Who will run the project?
Turkish Forestry and Water Minister Veysel Eroğlu recently offered that the water management and investment could be undertaken by the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works (DSİ) until the problem is resolved.
Turkish Cyprus' main opposition party, the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), recently rejected the DSİ formula and said the Turkish Cypriot side would not step back from the original proposal, which is based on municipal management.
In the meantime, the water has been piped into the sea rather than households for months, according to sources. While the DSİ said this was done due to technical reasons, most Turkish Cypriots believed the problem came from the authorization crisis.
The water crisis has also created problems in talks on the renewal of the existing financial protocol between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus, as the water issues need to be added to the new protocol under normal conditions. The Turkish Cypriot side also didn't realize a number of reforms, which it promised in the latest financial protocol, according to Turkey.
Turkey has urged the need for reforms to allocate over 1 billion liras of aid to Turkish Cyprus. As the new financial protocol was not instituted, the Turkish Cypriot side has faced problems paying an additional bonus salary to public servants and retirees.