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High winter temperatures, lack of precipitation ring alarm bells for drought.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- Abnormally high winter temperatures, which are 11 or 12 degrees Celsius above seasonal norms, and lack of precipitation this year have rung alarm bells for drought in Turkey as meteorologists warn that although they expect precipitation in March and April, this will not be sufficient to eliminate the risk of drought in the country.x

Turkey has been experiencing one of the warmest winters in its history this year. Air temperatures are above the seasonal norm. Speaking with Today's Zaman, Professor Orhan E[currency]en from the meteorological engineering department of ystanbul Technical University's (yTE[pounds sterling]) faculty of aeronautics and astronautics warned that they don't expect precipitation until the end of February, adding that even if it rains unexpectedly, it will not be enough to fill the reservoirs, whose volumes are already alarmingly low.

Underlining that Turkey has been experiencing a serious period of drought, E[currency]en stated that an agricultural drought started late in 2013 and Turkey is now experiencing hydrological drought. "This year, the amount of precipitation is low and air temperatures are far above the seasonal norms. Turkey has been experiencing extraordinary meteorological situations. The drinking water supplies are not enough to meet the needs of people, particularly in big cities such as ystanbul. For example, there is only 15 days' worth of drinking water left in Yuvacyk Dam, yzmit province. People living in the province are not aware of this alarming situation, thus they don't try to use water economically. The municipality transfers water from Sapanca Lake to the dam, but the water level of Sapanca Lake is also very low."

Measures to be taken to save water

In terms of drinking water in ystanbul, E[currency]en stated that although top officials say ystanbul will not experience a lack of drinking water within the next 90 days, he is certain that the water in reservoirs for ystanbul will only meet the needs of people for 45 days. Stating that the volume of ystanbul's reservoirs has reached a critical level, E[currency]en stated that reservoirs in ystanbul are currently 30 percent full, adding: "If it goes on like this, we will experience a very serious drinking water problem in the summer across Turkey, as evaporation and the need for water will increase in that season. Some measures should be taken as soon as possible. Economical use of water should be encouraged, people's awareness should be raised and municipalities should cut off water for a certain amount of time each day. However, the municipalities are avoiding cutting off water as Turkey is approaching the local elections [to be held on March 30]."

The head of the Chamber of Meteorological Engineers, Sytky Erduran, told Today's Zaman that the first sign of drought appeared in 2013, stating that cumulative precipitation was below the average in 2013 compared with the previous five years.

According to State Waterworks Authority (DSy) data, the average cumulative precipitation between Oct. 1, 2013 and Jan. 2, 2014 across Turkey decreased 31.4 percent compared with the long-term average and decreased 41.6 percent when is compared with the 2012 average.

Meteorology General Directorate data indicate that the total amount of precipitation per square meter in 2012 was 455.4 kilograms, but this decreased to 292.8 kilograms in 2013.

While admitting that they expect a lot of rain in March, Erduran said that even if there are heavy rains in March and April, it will not be enough. "Considering that summer is approaching, government officials should take the necessary measures. First of all, risk management plans should be prepared by experts and necessary action plans should be launched before it is too late."

However, Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroy-lu is optimistic about drought, despite all the warnings from experts. Speaking to reporters in ystanbul on Thursday, Eroy-lu confirmed that the water volume of ystanbul's reservoirs is at 30 percent, but added that no cities, including large cities such as ystanbul and yzmir, will experience a lack of water this year despite the low volumes. Stating that they have taken all possible precautions at the ministry, Eroy-lu said that recent water cuts do not result from a lack of water but from technical problems. Eroy-lu also said there will not be water cuts in the summer in ystanbul or any other part of Turkey.

Negative effects on agricultural products

Turhan Tuncer, president of the Chamber of Agricultural Engineers (ZMO) -- affiliated with the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects' Chambers (TMMOB) -- shared some details about the possible negative effects of drought on crop yields with Today's Zaman. Tuncer said that according to figures from the Konya agricultural region, the wheat yield will reduce by about 20 percent even if it rains in the next two months. "This figure reached us 15 days ago. During this 15-day period, there was no rain in the region. There was no rain in the provinces surrounding Ankara. There was not enough rain in Adana's Ecukurova agricultural region [where cotton, wheat, corn, soy bean, barley, grapes and citrus fruits are produced in great quantities]. In Malatya, which is another important agricultural region in Turkey, the cumulative precipitation decreased by 40 percent this year," Tuncer noted.

Speaking about the abnormally high winter air temperatures, Tuncer said the flowering period started very early for fruit trees due to the abnormally high temperatures. Tuncer added: "For example, pistachio trees in Urfa are grafted by the farmers to prevent them from flowering too early. The fruit trees experience a cooling period in the winters. However, the trees could not experience this period this year, and this has caused them to flower very early. When those trees are exposed to a possible frost, they will not bear fruits this year."

However, Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister Mehdi Eker, who spoke to reporters after an event in Ankara on Thursday, said the risk of a possible agricultural drought in Turkey this year is low, contradicting the experts. The minister said that if it doesn't rain in spring, they will start to be worried about a possible agricultural drought, adding that Turkey does not face a risk of severe agricultural drought. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)


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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Feb 15, 2014
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