Saturday 21 June 2014

The last free river of Mesopotamاخر انهار بلاد مابين النهرين

The Great Zab or Upper Zab is an approximately 400-kilometre long 
river flowing through Turkey and Iraq. It rises in Turkey 
near Lake Van and joins the Tigris in Iraq south of Mosul
Dams, water distribution and harms along the Greater Zab River in Turkey and Iraq
Thesis(103 Pages) submitted to the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance of Utrecht University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master in Global Criminology,
Alex Kemman, April, 2014


Water. It is the crucial substance to life and forms basis of our planet. Similarly, the rivers of our planet can be seen as the life veins that sustain our global ecosystem. This is particularly evident in Mesopotamia -the land between two rivers-, an area that partly covers four riparian countries: Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. In a dry region with little rain, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers transformed the lands into fertile grounds that led to crucial inventions such as the wheel, the script and irrigated agriculture (Gibson, Lloyd, Owen 2012; Collon, 2011).

Dams, the subject of this thesis, allow to control rivers and can provide crucial benefits such as irrigation and energy generation (Frey & Linke, 2002, p. 1265). On the other hand, dams can cause displacement of people, harm the environment and disrupt ecosystems. Dams have become increasingly controversial due to those negative impacts but remain popular in emerging economies such as the BRIC1 countries, Turkey, and Iran. They are often presented as vehicles of development that propel the nation into progress and the drawbacks seen as necessary sacrifices for the ‘greater common good’ of the country.

The Tigris River basin and the Greater Zab River in particular, exemplifies many of the controversies related to water and dams. On the one hand Iraq and Turkey are emerging economies that want to join the prosperous nations, but on the other hand nature and people are harmed in the process. Especially in the South of Iraq the upstream dams have led to droughts, desertification and salinization. The Greater Zab is of particular interest as it the last large Tigris tributary that still runs free.

This research will focus on the controversial impacts, or harms, that the planned dams may give along the Greater Zab and more downstream along the Tigris. Dams and its harms as potentially criminal activity have largely been ignored in criminology. It is this gap that I try to fill by explaining how to understand dams and related water issues from a (critical) criminologist' perspective. Such a perspective scrutinizes the power relations that shape both legal interpretations and ideas on why some harms are condoned and which actors benefit by encouraging those harms (see White, 2011; South et al., 2013; Stretesky et al., 2013). Indeed, harms instead of crime are placed central throughout this research. This led to the following research question and sub-questions:

What harms can be identified as a consequence or in relation to dams in Mesopotamia, specifically when assessing the Greater Zab River?
1) What plans related to dams exist in the Greater Zab basin?
2) What regulations and possible transgressions exist?
1 Brazil, Russia, India, China which represent fast growing economies and emerging players in the global stage. 9
3) What are the (potential) social harms?
4) What are the (potential) environmental harms?
5) Who benefits and propagates the dams?
6) Who is harmed and what are the perspectives of these victims?
In order to explain all those issues this thesis will take the reader along the river and present the relevant issues and stakeholders. Over three months in the year 2013 I conducted fieldwork in Turkey and Iraq. Through qualitative methods I tried to understand the situation and expose underlying (power) dynamics and interests in the construction of dams.

In order to answer the research questions the text is structured as follows: Chapter two explains the theoretical concepts to understand dams from a criminological approach. Chapter three presents the methodology. Chapter four regards the context and describes the region, water issues and stakeholders of the area. Chapter five presents the findings in the Turkish part of the Greater Zab, while chapter six presents the findings for the Iraqi part of the basin. Chapter seven concerns the downstream consequences of upstream dams. Chapter eight will analyze the findings and identify key issues. Finally, chapter nine will summarize the findings and answer the research question.

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