As we’ve been cycling along, we’ve seen a huge amount of investment in public infrastructure. Everywhere you go in Northern Turkey, roads are being widened, flattened and resurfaced. You see a huge variety of traffic on the roads, from huge trucks, ordinary cars, tractors, luxurious German saloons driven by tourists from Istanbul, converted tractor-trailer-transport things, and even the (occasional) donkey and cart. It struck me the other day that it would be interesting to think about how people use the Silk Road today. Is it for short or long distance travel? To see their families or do business? What sort of economic, political and cultural factors influence connectedness along the modern Silk Road. I’m going to try to keep an eye out as we go further on our journey.
For today though, a quick observation on a different, but increasingly important, piece of public infrastructure: the water pipeline. The Turkish Government is in the process of constructing a 160km water pipeline to Istanbul, in order to meet the water needs of a growing metropolitan population. We came across the pipeline at a number of different points, and I’ll put up a photo as soon as possible – it’s a pretty impressive sight. It’s part of a broader process in the Near East and Caucusus towards the construction of water pipelines and the shoring up of political alliances. The Turkish Government, for example, is in the process of building a water pipeline to Northern Cyprus (you can see the NYT for more http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/world/europe/northern-cyprus-sees-hope-in-water-pipeline.html?pagewanted=all). With populations in the area growing, and water supplies shrinking, disputes over water have the potential to equal those over oil and natural gas. The ability of a country like Turkey (whose freshwater springs we’ve been enjoying for the last week) to distribute water to its allies is a political bargaining chip not to be sniffed at.