Bus-sized sinkholes appearing in Turkey threaten harvest

Bus-sized sinkholes appearing in Turkey threaten harvest
An aerial view of a sinkhole in Konya. Sinkholes dot the drought-stricken breadbasket of the Turkish plains, worrying farmers as they multiply. (AFP)
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Updated 22 April 2021

Bus-sized sinkholes appearing in Turkey threaten harvest

Bus-sized sinkholes appearing in Turkey threaten harvest
  • Sinkholes appear in drough-stricken region

KARAPINAR: Sinkholes wide enough to swallow a bus dot the drought-stricken breadbasket of the Turkish plains, worrying farmers as they spread and creep closer to residential homes.
“The drought situation is getting worse,” said farmer Tahsin Gundogdu, whose harvest includes potatoes he sells to the US food giant PepsiCo.
The 57-year-old has seen the huge holes yawn open in the past 10 to 15 years as the overuse of groundwater for irrigation takes its toll.
Dizzyingly deep, they appear when underground caverns created by drought can no longer contain the weight of the layer of soil above.
This puts farmers in a bind.
Attempts to get water by other means are more expensive, cutting farmers’ incomes. But continued reliance on groundwater will likely make the problem only worse.
Professor Fetullah Arik has counted around 600 sinkholes in the Konya plain, where he heads the Sinkhole Research Center at the Konya Technical University — nearly double the 350 counted last year.
Experts want the government to do more to address extreme drought, blaming the lack of a proper water management policy for Turkey’s woes.
Trying to cut groundwater use, farmers have been forced to water their fields more, leading to higher electricity bills.
“We usually would water the land twice a year but now we’re doing it five or six times,” said Hazim Sezer, a 57-year-old farmer in Karapinar.
But Gundogdu said some farmers still turn to illegally using groundwater for their crops.
If not addressed, drought will hurt farmers and consumers “as much as, if not worse” than the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic, said Baki Remzi Suicmez, head of Turkey’s Chamber of Agricultural Engineers (ZMO).
“Until last year, we had never seen drought like this,” farmer Kamil Isikli agreed, adding he was more optimistic for 2021 after rain fell earlier this year.
“Farmers no longer have enough money from one month to the next to pay their bills,” Isikli said. “They can’t afford anything anymore.”
Sezer urged the government to create underground systems that redirect water to the plains that would otherwise end up in the seas.
Murat Akbulut, head of ZMO’s Konya branch, said this could offer a “significant solution” for Konya, whose Beysehir Lake has seen its water reserves shrink to 123 million tons from 450 million tons in 2020.
This drop “will lead to real irrigation issues for the plain,” Akbulut said.
Nearly 77 percent of Turkey’s water is consumed by the agricultural sector, Suicmez told AFP.
Turkey is actually facing two types of drought.
The first is meteorological, due to dry weather, and the second is hydrological, which means water levels are low in streams, reservoirs and groundwater levels.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted his first water forum last month, promising to “renew and improve the agricultural irrigation systems.”
Suicmez said a lot depended on the weather in April and May, because “if there isn’t enough rain in those months, in nearly all areas where there is dry farming, the risk of agricultural drought will continue.”
But even abundant spring rain will not make the problem go away, Suicmez warned.
This winter also saw fears over low water levels in dams, although Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli insisted last month the problem had been solved by rainfall.
He also suggested Turkey was primarily suffering from the effects of rising temperatures and climate change.
But Suicmez said while this was true, it was “not right” to blame everything on global events.
“We cannot say: ‘Oh there’s climate change, that’s why there’s drought’, when there are concrete reasons for it,” Suicmez said.
The drought’s impact is felt especially severely in the lakes region of Turkey’s southwest, geology engineer Servet Cevni said.
Experts warn Salda Lake, which NASA believes could provide clues to a crater on Mars it has just started exploring with the Perseverence rover, is also suffering.
Described as “Turkey’s Maldives” because of turquoise waters and white sand, its shoreline has receded by up to 30 meters (around 100 feet) in the past 10 years, according to the local mayor.
“We don’t have a single lake that we can say is in a good state in terms of water in Burdur province. They’re either at risk or in a really bad state,” Cevni said.
The larger Burdur Lake closer to the city center has seen water recede by 11 kilometers (6.8 miles), he said, stressing the need for an “urgent water policy.”
“Wasting water is as serious an issue as killing someone. The punishments should be just as serious,” he said.


Oracle signed as first tenant of NEOM’s data centre

Oracle signed as first tenant of NEOM’s data centre
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Updated 15 sec ago

Oracle signed as first tenant of NEOM’s data centre

Oracle signed as first tenant of NEOM’s data centre
  • The agreement follows the launch of the Oracle Cloud Saudi Arabia West Region in Jeddah in February 2020

NEOM Tech & Digital Hold Co. announced Oracle as the first tenant of its hyper scale data centre at NEOM. 

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), part of the US computer technology giant, is to be hosted at the data center to provide a high-performing, resilient foundation for cloud services.

The agreement follows the launch of the Oracle Cloud Saudi Arabia West Region in Jeddah in February 2020 and supports Oracle’s commitment to open two dedicated cloud regions in the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia is fast emerging as a global technology hub and NEOM Tech & Digital Hold Co.’s partnerships with Oracle and EzdiTek will enable us to build the foundations required to deliver on our full potential,” minister of communication and NEOM Tech & Digital Hold Co. chairman, Abdullah Alswaha, said. 

“Today’s announcement means the realization of technology that will serve the ambitions of the public and private sector across the region and beyond, positioning Saudi Arabia at the forefront of the industry,” he added. 

The company also announced a $500 million joint venture with EzdiTek, via its affiliate, FAS Energy Trading Co., to power the creation and operation of the data center.


Green investment lacking ‘urgency’, warns key global financial players at Future Investment Initiative 2021

Green investment lacking ‘urgency’, warns key global financial players at Future Investment Initiative 2021
Updated 6 min 23 sec ago

Green investment lacking ‘urgency’, warns key global financial players at Future Investment Initiative 2021

Green investment lacking ‘urgency’, warns key global financial players at Future Investment Initiative 2021

Global institutions are lacking urgency when it comes to investing in green initiatives, leading figures in the financial sector have warned in a sobering assessment of the battle against climate change. 

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, prominent players in Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), asset management firm Ninety One, and HSBC Holdings all called for the pace of investments to increase.

Fahad AlSaif, head of Global Capital Finance at PIF, told delegates: “The essence of the urgency is not there yet. There has to be collaboration, across global institutions, it is a trust problem in delivering.”

He added: “I worry about the balance of pace we are moving.”

His concerns were echoed by John Green, chief commercial officer at Ninety One, who also revealed that 60-70 percent of the conversations he has with clients are about energy. 

“Action in real financing is not there,” he said, arguing that not enough is being invested in developing economies.

Noel Quinn, group CEO at HSBC Holdings, said that while "acceleration" in this area is "really fast", the Covid-19 pandemic has acted "as a wake up call to say a natural event can have an affect on economy".

Julia Hoggett, CEO of the London Stock Exchange, insisted the six months following the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, are “critical” for turning any announcements into action.

“I believe in pipes and plumbing,” she said. 


Norway's Equinor Q3 results surge to nine-year high on gas and derivatives

Norway's Equinor Q3 results surge to nine-year high on gas and derivatives
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Updated 18 min 31 sec ago

Norway's Equinor Q3 results surge to nine-year high on gas and derivatives

Norway's Equinor Q3 results surge to nine-year high on gas and derivatives
  • Norway is western Europe's largest oil and gas producer, pumping around 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day

Norway's Equinor posted its strongest quarterly result in nine years on Wednesday, driven by a global energy supply crunch that pushed Europe's natural gas prices to record highs and sent the value of derivative contracts soaring.


Equinor has the largest exposure to spot gas prices among big oil companies and its results come ahead of those due from Shell this week and BP next.


Equinor said it would sharply increase its share buybacks in coming months while maintaining a quarterly dividend level of $0.18 per share.


Adjusted earnings before tax rose to $9.77 billion in the July-September quarter from $780 million, exceeding the $8.4 billion predicted in a poll of 25 analysts compiled by Equinor.


"The current unprecedented level and volatility in European gas prices underlines the uncertainty in the market," CEO Anders Opedal said in a statement.


Norway is western Europe's largest oil and gas producer, pumping around 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Last year, it supplied 22 percent of the gas consumed in the European Union, Norwegian government data showed.


Equinor has said it would seek to boost pipeline gas exports to Europe by increasing production from the Troll and Oseberg fields, as well as from reducing gas injections normally used to pump oil.


"We have turned every valve to see if we can produce and export more gas," Opedal said, adding that one field, Gina Krog, had found ways to do so with only a marginal negative impact on its simultaneous oil output.


The confluence of factors driving global gas prices was unlikely to be permanent however, Opedal said.


"This makes for higher revenues for Equinor but is also a reminder how commodities prices swing," he told a news conference. "We have not changed our long-term price projections."


Equinor is benefiting from Europe's flexible gas market after the European Union forced gas producers years ago to shift away from steady, long-term contracts.


The increased energy cost has led to soaring electricity prices across much of Europe and the world, hitting households as well as companies which have been forced to shut factories, triggering further supply chain shortages.


Global gas prices rose sharply in the third quarter, with Europe's benchmark TTF front-month contract increasing threefold to around 90 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), below average storage levels and concerns over Russian supply ahead of the winter heating season.


In early October, the gas price again, hitting a record of 155 euros per MWh before easing to 89 euros on Tuesday. The price of North Sea crude oil meanwhile has risen 67 percent this year to a three-year high of $86 per barrel.

Earnings at Equinor's marketing, midstream and processing (MMP) unit rose to $2.19 billion from $262 million, boosted by derivatives contracts related to European gas, the company said.


Equinor sells most of its gas on a short-term, or spot, basis but also sells a small share based on longer-dated indices. For the latter, MMP has used financial contracts to benefit from strong spot and front-month pricing.


The mark-to-market gains from such contracts in the third quarter will be followed by losses in the MMP segment when those volumes are delivered under the long-term contracts, Equinor reiterated in its earnings report.


Higher profits will also mean higher taxes in the fourth quarter, the company said.


Shares in Equinor were down 2.4 percent earlier, lagging an Oslo benchmark index down 1.2 percent, with the benchmark Brent crude down 1.1 percent.

Equinor plans to buy back shares worth $1 billion in the next three months, up from a plan of $300 million.


Two thirds will be bought from the Norwegian government, its largest stakeholder, ensuring the state maintains an unchanged stake of 67 percent.


In the previous quarter it had planned to buy up to $300 million in shares. It spent $99 million on the market and has committed to buy the rest from the government's holdings.


Turkey's Erdogan says signed $3.2bn green climate fund deal

Turkey's Erdogan says signed $3.2bn green climate fund deal
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Updated 37 min 26 sec ago

Turkey's Erdogan says signed $3.2bn green climate fund deal

Turkey's Erdogan says signed $3.2bn green climate fund deal

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Turkey had signed a memorandum of understanding under which it will receive loans worth $3.2 billion to help it meet clean energy goals set out in the Paris climate accord.


Sources familiar with the plan said earlier this month that Turkey was to receive the loans under a planned deal funded by the World Bank, France and Germany.


"We have put down the signatures in the past days for the memorandum of understanding to provide our country with $3.157 billion from the green climate fund, for which we have been holding negotiations for some time," Erdogan said in a speech to deputies from his party in parliament. 

 


Vision 2030 has prompted 400 policy changes by the Saudi government, mining minister reveals

Vision 2030 has prompted 400 policy changes by the Saudi government, mining minister reveals
Updated 58 min 10 sec ago

Vision 2030 has prompted 400 policy changes by the Saudi government, mining minister reveals

Vision 2030 has prompted 400 policy changes by the Saudi government, mining minister reveals

Saudi Arabia has passed 400 updates of its policies since the launch of Vision 2030, the country’s vice minister for mining has revealed.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh, Khalid Al Mudaifer highlighted steps already taken by the Saudi government to ensure the Kingdom’s economy is diversified away from oil.

Mudaifer talked up the importance of mining — an area of government focus — as he also called for greater investment in environmental  priorities “for the world to have a better green future”. 

Shihana Alazzaz, general counsel for the Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) welcomed the updates, but added that when it comes to remodelling an economic system “it’s very true that laws are essential but they are not sufficient”.

Y.S. Lee, a visiting Professor of Law at Georgia State University, flagged up three requirements for attracting foreign investors: good design of the law for investment; organizations of law and legal institutions; and law that adopts to social economic conditions.

“A good law that cannot match with the local cultural and religious values wouldn’t work,” he said.