31 August 2003

Guardian Unlimited | One river's journey through troubled times:
Huge dams have turned the mighty Euphrates into a fraction of its former self - to the fury of countries downstream

Rising in the Kurdish mountains of eastern Turkey, the Euphrates river meanders for more than 1,700 miles through ancient history and troubled modern politics.

It is mentioned in the Book of Genesis as one of four rivers that bounded the Garden of Eden and its waters sustained great civilisations from the Babylonians to the Abbasids. Fearsome rulers, from Nebuchadnezzar to Saddam Hussein, have built their palaces on its banks.

The name 'Euphrates' is Greek for 'the good and abounding river', but today the water's flow has been reduced to a fraction of what it once was.

To summarise, Turkey and Syria are appropriating too much water and degrading both flow levels and water quality downstream in Iraq. The management problems where a single river basin encompasses competing nations make the rivalries in basins like the Colorado and the Murray-Darling simple.

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