Work has begun on the most complex phase of the world’s longest undersea water pipeline, a project to bring freshwater from Turkey beneath the Mediterranean to the occupied part of Cyprus that proponents say may help reunite the island.
The first kilometer of pipeline was laid this month on the $484 million project backed by Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to quench thirsts in the breakaway state. The centerpiece is an 80-kilometer (50-mile) pipeline to be suspended as much as 280 meters (919 feet) under water.
The project, its finish date already pushed back three months to June by technical challenges, is proceeding as reunification talks remain stalled on a divided island the World Resources Institute ranks as one of the 17 most water-stressed places on Earth while Turkey and Turkish Cypriots have bickered with Cyprus over offshore natural gas discoveries.
Water from Turkey’s pipeline to the mythological island birthplace of the goddess of love Aphrodite should be seen as “an opportunity for peace” in Cyprus, Forestry and Water Works Minister Veysel Eroglu said.
The pipeline, though, is “not the best solution both in economic — too expensive — and environmental terms,” said Cypriot government environment commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou. “Water is sensitive and might get polluted during the transfer.”