Kura River

[by Gabby Ongies]

Running 848 miles through Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, the Kura River is the longest river in the Caucasus (Britannica). It is also the third largest river to empty into the Caspian Sea, after the Volga and Ural Rivers. The Kura-Araxes culture was one of many civilizations to spring up around the Kura (Kura-Araxes). However, due to extensive use for irrigation and hydroelectricity, the Kura is considered one of the most stressed river basins in Asia.

Human impact on the Kura and its tributaries has decreased the amount of water flowing into the Caspian; some tributaries no longer reach the river because of high water usage. Irrigation agriculture, an important part of the economy for regions surrounding the Kura, has not only diminished the water level of the river, but has also destroyed about 660,000 acres (267,000 hectares) of formerly farmable land. Another 1,560,000 acres (631,000 hectares) of irrigated land has a very high salt content from the mineral deposits from the irrigation, which could lead to this land being destroyed in the future An outdated drainage system, industrial discharge, and hydroelectricity stations also contribute to pollution in the Kura (Kura River). Heavy water usage has also caused conflicts between the countries that the Kura flows through, most recently Turkey and Georgia.

Turkey plans to build a new hydroelectric dam on the Kura River to support its growing reliance on hydroelectricity. However, building this damn on the Kura would redirect much of the river’s water from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, which would lessen the amount of water flowing to Georgia and Azerbaijan (Turkey Dam Plans). Georgia’s Green Party opposes construction of the dam, claiming that a decrease in the water level could lead to epidemics because the river water would be mostly sewage water from Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and Rustavi (DF Watch). The party also claims that the Kura riverbed in Georgia could dry up and become an arid valley if Turkey is allowed to build its dam and cascading reservoirs over 5 kilometers. Furthermore, the Kura would not be able to self-purify because water flowing in would not stem from a natural source (Ecolur.org). The Green Party leader, Giorgi Gachechiladze, claims that the Kura’s volume could decrease by as much as 40% near the town of Borjormi, and up to 20% in Tbilisi. Azerbaijan, where the Kura is a main source of water, could lose up to 10% of its water, affecting its agriculture and energy sectors. The Green Party also sees the dam as a potential political threat, given the rising number of conflicts over water resources. However, the Green Party is the main advocate for stopping the dam’s construction. The Georgian government claims that there are no plans to change the course of the Kura, but are looking into the project to make sure that Georgia’s interests are not negatively impacted. (Pik.tv). Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources also claims that the water level of the Kura will not be dramatically affected; they claim that Turkey will only use 3 percent of the water that enters Azerbaijan, and this will not affect the country negatively (eastbook.eu). This debate may become increasingly heated as Turkey and other nations turn to hydroelectricity to power their economies and homes. The issues surrounding who has what rights when it comes to international waterways will become more and more important as more countries seek to use the water that resides in their territory. How this dispute is solved may be a precursor for how future disputes are handled in the future.

Works Cited

  • Democracy and Freedom Watch, “Green Party warns of ecological catastrophe.” Last modified January 13, 2012. Accessed April 17, 2012. http://dfwatch.net/green-party-warns-of-ecological-catastrophe-90282.
  • EcoLur, “Georgian Greens against Turkish Beshik – Aya Project.” Last modified February 10, 2012. Accessed April 1, 2012. http://www.ecolur.org/en/news/water/georgian-greens-against-turkish-beshik-v-aya-project/3523/.
  • Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Kura River,” accessed March 31, 2012,
  • Wikipedia, “Kura-Araxes culture.” Last modified March 27, 2012. Accessed March 31, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kura-Araxes_culture.
  • Wikipedia, “Kura River.” Last modified March 26, 2012. Accessed March 30, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kura_River.
  • http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/325135/Kura-River.
  • Lickiewicz, Paweł . East Book, “Sly Turkey Plays the Kura Card.” Last modified December 29, 2011. Accessed March 30, 2012. http://eastbook.eu/en/2011/12/material-en/news-en/sly-turkey-plays-the-kura-card/.
  • Pik TV, “Georgia’s Kura River Under Threat .” Last modified January 18, 2012. Accessed April 1, 2012. http://pik.tv/en/news/story/28318-georgias-kura-river-under-threat.