On 16 to 22 March 2009,
Istanbul is hosting the 5th World Water Forum under the title “Bridging Divides
In this context, it is
interesting to look at how Istanbul is "bridging divides".
Settlements and reservoirs "united"
First of all, the drinking water for the rich
and poor of Istanbul comes from reservoirs which are fed by surface water
sources. The areas of these water sources have been “united” with unscrupulous
construction of buildings.
Luxury estates for the selected wealthy are
mushrooming very close to the protected areas of the reservoirs, while a bit
further away, a blind eye has been turned to the poor building their homes. The
latter are then used for votes during election times.
With miscellaneous changes in rules and
regulations, the illegal buildings suddenly attain legal status, despite the
fact that they seriously damage the environment and pollute the water.
The areas were the settlements of the rich
Villas in Çekmeköy, on the northeastern
outskirts of Istanbul, which were built in a definite protection zone of a
river feding the Elmalı Reservoir
The “Seferusta Farm Houses” built by Ömerli Joint Stock Company on the Ömerli
Reservoir, again on the northeastern outskirts of Istanbul
The “Alkent” estate built by Alarko on the
Büyükçekmece Reservoir, on the western outskirts of Istanbul
The Durusu Park homes built on the Terkos
Reservoir in the rural western part of Istanbul province
The poor have settled in large districts
built too close to the reservoirs:
Dudullu near the Elmalı Reservoir
Samandra, Yenidoğan, Paşaköy, Sultanbeyli and
Alemdağ near the Ömerli Reservoir
Gaziosmanpaşa, Arnavutköy, Taşoluk, Haraççı
near the Sazlıdere Reservoir on the western outskirts of Istanbul
Göktürk and Boğazköy areas near the Alibey
Reservoir to the northwest of the city
In addition to these settlements, there are
also small and medium-sized industrial sites, stone quarries, as well as living
areas for all the workers who are employed there.
Rich and poor "united" in paying same price
When a contract for domestic water supplies
is signed, the same price is paid by poor and rich, regardless what the water
is used for: for washing dishes and clothes, or for filling the private pool in
the garden and watering lawns.
Rich and poor are thus “united” in their
payments for water.
Water being turned into commodity
Most of the people in Istanbul cannot or will
not drink the water coming from the taps. In recent years companies selling
plastic barrels of water to the middle and upper classes, the poor make do with
traipsing to public fountains to fill containers. The content of the water in
these fountains is unknown.
Although access to water is a basic human
right, it has been turned into a commodity which the rich consume at the
expense of the poor.
We could certainly add to the examples of how
Istanbul, the host of the 5th World Water Forum, “bridges divides”. It is
essential to realise what global capitalism is trying to do and to prevent the
merchandise of water. (NT/EK/AG)