• Turkey wants distribution privatized; Northern Cyprus doesn't
  • Pumping via world's longest undersea pipeline began last month

Turkey is locked in a dispute with the government in northern Cyprus over the distribution of water to the island via the world’s longest undersea pipeline, officials from both sides said on Friday.

Turkey is opposing a water board established by local municipalities to manage the distribution, calling for the contract to be decided by open tender to a private company, the officials said, asking not to be named because they’re not authorized to speak to media. A Turkish official cited ineffective collection of payments and the need for investment in infrastructure in Cyprus as reasons for Turkey’s opposition.

Both officials denied media reports Friday that Turkey has cut the flow of water to the island as a punitive measure. The distribution of water to cities in northern Cyprus hasn’t started, said the Turkish official, adding that tests of a new dam and a purification facility on the island were still under way.

The pipeline’s completion earlier this year, with an 80-kilometer (50-mile) undersea section suspended as much as 280 meters (919 feet) under water, was expected to bring relief to what the World Resources Institute describes as one of the planet’s most water-stressed places. It is designed to carry 75 million cubic meters (19.8 billion gallons) of water a year to northern Cyprus, with half destined for farms.

Cyprus has been split between the south, a European Union member, and Turkish-held north since Turkey invaded in 1974 to quash a coup aimed at uniting the entire island with Greece. Greek Cypriots make up three-quarters of the 1.1 million residents on the semi-arid island, the Mediterranean’s third-largest.

Supporters of the project say it may help to reunite the island, while others counter that both the economic and environmental cost is too high.

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