Monday, August 13, 2007

Ankara drought brings complacency charges

MSNBC, via the Financial Times: After weeks of scorching temperatures and not a drop of rain, the residents of Demetevler, a district of Ankara, awoke one morning this month to a most unexpected sight – a flood.

A water mains pipe had broken, and torrents of the city's fast-disappearing fresh water were rushing into basements, overturning cars, and causing maximum damage to homes. With Ankara already in the grip of a water crisis – hospitals turning away patients and schools that may not reopen in September – the waste seemed almost criminal.

Nor is it just an Ankara crisis. Much of Turkey has been sweltering in a heatwave for what seems like months. Now some are beginning to calculate the cost – the agriculture union last week said farmers in western and southern Anatolia had lost crops to the value of more than 5bn Turkish lira ($3.9bn, €2.8bn, £1.9bn) and rising.

"This is the most destructive summer we have ever suffered," says Semsi Bayraktar, president of the Turkish chambers of agriculture, which compiled the figures. The phenomenon has begun a discussion about climate change and global warming.

It is certainly racing up the political agenda in Ankara. Such was the outrage the Demetevler spill generated that it has become front-page news, putting a rare spotlight on Melih Gokcek, Ankara's mayor. Mr Gokcek, a member of the Justice and Development party of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which won a huge electoral victory three weeks ago, offered a tight-lipped apology for the incident.

…Mr Bayraktar estimates that wheat production will be 20 per cent below last year's level. "The public needs to be aware that it's not only farmers who are affected by this, because we have not seen the end of this drought yet."

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