U.S. Water News Online
ANKARA, Turkey -- With arms outstretched and the palms of
their hands turned toward the ground, worshippers prayed for rain at
mosques in the Turkish capital, which is suffering from drought and
serious water shortages.
Record-low snow and rainfall this past winter, coupled with
searing summer temperatures, have shrunk the reservoirs of Ankara, a
city of some 4 million people, leaving just enough water to last
another three months, according to Hayday Kocaker, who heads the
state water authority.
As city authorities come under criticism for their handling of the
shortage, Turks have turned to God for relief.
"We stand before you, we beg you to answer our prayers," said
Fikret Latifoglu, the imam of the Hacibayram mosque, one of the
city's oldest, in leading special prayers for rain before the start
of traditional prayers.
His words were broadcast through loudspeakers to the faithful
standing in the mosque's courtyard.
"Don't leave innocent children and the old, animals who cannot
speak for themselves, the trees, the ants and the birds without
water. We helplessly beg for Your mercy," he said.
Similar prayers were said at about 750 other mosques around the
city, with worshippers holding the palms of their hands toward the
ground -- instead of toward God, as in traditional Muslim prayers --
to symbolize falling rain.
Hoping to stretch supplies, the municipality began on Aug. 1
supplying water to homes only in two-day intervals. But increased
pressure while reopening pipelines caused two main lines to burst,
leaving residents without water for about five days.
The city's mayor, Melih Gokcek, faces calls to resign for
allegedly failing to take drought precautions. Critics say he has
wasted Ankara's money on embellishing the city, building parks and
establishing a soccer team, without investing in its infrastructure.
Gokcek denies the accusations.
He also drew ire by suggesting that residents take vacations and
leave the city to lower demand on water supplies.
The municipality began a project to divert water from the nearby
Kizilirmak river in March, but the water was not expected to reach
the city until late November.
Hospitals were being supplied water through tankers. But concerns
over hygiene forced at least two hospitals to begin delaying
non-urgent surgery, keeping visitors to a minimum and discharging
patients who are not in a life-threatening condition.
Authorities have also debated whether to delay the start of the
school year by a month -- to mid-October -- to avert the possible
spread of diseases at schools.
Sales of large, plastic water containers have surged in Ankara as
have the sales of bottled drinking water. The containers, which sold
for about $4.50 before the water cuts, were now selling for $13.
Some restaurants began serving food on paper plates with plastic
knives and forks.
Bans on watering lawns and washing cars with hoses have been in
place for months, and there have been television ads and sermons at
mosques to encourage people to save water.
Kocaker said the water shortage in the city should be taken as a
warning of worse to come unless residents begin to save water.
"Its absence causes us huge grievance and yet when we have it we
waste it without realizing what an important blessing it is," Kocaker
The city has suffered three droughts in the past 50 years, Kocaker
"But with the development of agricultural irrigation, population
increases and increase in the amounts of water people use, as well as
the period of drought, global warming and climate change, we are
experiencing this extraordinary situation," Kocaker said.
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