More Drop per Cop in Istanbul

Bridging the global water divide, courtesy of the Turkish police
Bridging the global water divide, courtesy of the Turkish police

Once again, the discussions at this year’s World Water Forum have turned around the question of how best to supply water to the poor. Will large dams and centralized irrigation systems be most effective in bridging the global water divide? Or are soft, decentralized approaches such as rainwater harvesting and muscle-powered treadle pumps a better way to reduce water poverty?

The Turkish police have now come up with a surprising quick fix to resolve these vexing problems: water cannons! On Monday, the police got themselves into disrepute by deporting my colleagues Ann-Kathrin Schneider and Payal Parekh for peacefully displaying a banner at the Forum’s opening ceremony. On the same day, they welcomed Turkish protesters, who demonstrated for the right to water, with a heavy gush of water from their battery at the gates of the Forum.

In a conversation with Turkey’s state media agency that was picked up by Reuters, the police explained that water cannons were the most efficient way of responding to the demands of protesters. Normally, we learn, they use 13-14 tons of water to disperse a crowd, at a price of $235. In comparison, they would have to spend $7,350 to achieve the same goal with teargas bombs. What a bargain!

In the past, the techniques used to save water through more efficient irrigation were known under the label of More Crop per Drop. With their typical no-nonsense solution, the Turkish police have now launched the concept of More Drop per Cop. Rumor has it that the World Water Council, which has remained silent on the repression against my colleagues and Turkish protesters, is considering the police for their next big water prize.

Peter Bosshard is the Policy Director of International Rivers. This blog post was also published as a commentary in Turkish Daily News on March 21, 2009.