In the summer of last year, 118,000 people in Basra were hospitalized to treat afflictions related to contaminated water. However, wars, economic sanctions, damming, pollution and decreased rainfall have together created a water crisis in Iraq. " Today, the issue of flood, particularly that caused by the Euphrates, has faded into memory; instead, the twin issues of water shortage and desertification confront Iraqi policy-makers today (see photo below). November 29,2020. Basra, a governorate of approximately 4 million people, has been hit especially hard by the water crisis in Iraq. Although the water crisis in Iraq seems dire, steps are already being taken to rectify it. – former Turkish president Suleyman Demirel, "Watercourse States shall, in utilizing an international watercourse in their Territories, take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of Significant Harm to other Watercourse States.". , Iran and Syria have also built numerous dams and water storage facilities that reduce the amount of water reaching Iraq.  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 28, 2009.  For example, Vice President Joe Biden was forced, during his visit to Baghdad during the first week of July 2009, to cancel a scheduled trip to the north for meeting with the Kurdish leaders because a severe sandstorm had caused the airports to be closed. Those who cannot afford this are forced to rely on tap water which may carry diseases. But the question remains whether progress will be made in time to avert another crisis. River levels in Iraq have dropped by 40 percent in the past two decades, according to the Ministry of Water Resources of Iraq. According to experts, the Aliso Dam, the construction of which began on the Tigris River in 2006, will have a storage capacity of 11.14 billion cubic meters, and will deprive Iraq of a third of its arable land and will cause farmers to desert their farms. Not only have water levels decreased, but the water available is also often contaminated. Iraqis wore masks outside their homes and the hospitals were inundated with patients suffering from respiratory problems. (11) Increased water salinity in particular is a major contributing factor to desertification. Completed in 1993, it presently generates 8.9 billion kWh in electricity and is responsible for opening more than 180,000 acres of farmland to irrigation in the Harran plain. Water security for all of these countries, therefore, depends on cooperation. Become a Video Lab member! Iraq, the report warns, is facing "a real disaster" which would mean that the country will become an extension of the Arabian Peninsula desert. The reservoir is about 50 miles long and averages 1.6 miles in width. Iraq's disappearing Eden: Water shortages could force four million people to flee their homes. Dr. Fadhel Al-Farraji, the head of the Authority for Fighting Desertification, attributes the problem to, among other things, the movement of heavy military equipment over desert land since 1990 which has crushed the firm desert crust, undoing the compacting of decades and turning the surface into soft sand capable of being carried by the wind. Furthermore, animal waste and septic tanks pollute the drinking water network. Catastrophic drought threatens Iraq as major dams in surrounding countries cut off water to its great rivers. Iraq Must Share Responsibility For Its Water Problems. Like Syria and Egypt, most of Iraq's water is trans-boundary in that it comes from other countries. But a new crisis has emerged that could undermine its recovery - Iraq is running out of water. Saddam Hussein could rule Iraq with an iron fist, but when it came to water issues he was ignored by Turkey, reviled by Syria, and treated as a mortal enemy by Iran. The construction of the dam would have meant "flooding the archeologically significant, ancient city of Hasankeyf on the Tigris River as well as the enforced relocation of more than 10,000 people. Source: Potential Water Conflict in the Middle East, Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM) Weekly: December 5-12, 2020, Sheikh Of Al-Azhar Provides Support For Extremist Islamists In Europe: Muslims Must Give Their Souls In Defense Of The Prophet; Islam Commands Us To Love Muhammad And Jihad More Than Our Own Families. Desertification is increasing the frequency of sand storms during the summer season, to such an extent that Baghdad international airport is occasionally closed for as long as two or three days because of poor visibility. The Johns Hopkins Press, 1952, p. 183. – Clarissa Cooney  According to the European Water Association report, the share of water flowing into Iraq has declined by two-thirds in the last 25 years, with the problem being further compounded by severe drought in the last few years. The Aliso Dam is the most controversial and, when completed, will have grave effects on Iraq's water availability. Historically, Iraq has been a particularly fertile region, containing both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Thus, Iraq faces difficulties to realize the target of 91% of households using safe drinking water supply by 2015. In the words of a UNDP study, "Water is power – and when water is in short supply, power relations figures prominently in determining who gets access to water and on what terms.. Through this system, water is collected at the base of hills and transported to fields by a network of wells. The report was particularly pessimistic about the Tigris River, which could lose 33 billion cubic meters of water annually because of the water policy adopted by Turkey. Iraq and, to a lesser degree, Syria, is affected by decisions made upstream with rival claims on water-sharing by the riparian countries. The country's need for water is estimated to grow to 77 billion cubic meters by 2015, at a time when water flows are expected to decline to 43 billion cubic meters annually..  Further, water contamination on a vast scale, caused by the diffusion of foreign objects on the river floor and the discharge of waste and untreated water into the rivers and lakes, reduces the potable water and causes public health hazards. Declining levels in Iraq’s Tigris raise fear of water crisis. Iraq Must Share Responsibility for its Water Problems Iraq acknowledges that, even together, Turkey, Iran, and Syria do not constitute the only responsibility for the decline of the level of water in the two rivers. Iraq's wars and the stationing of military units on agricultural land have added to desertification. The plan is to utilize the waters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers with the construction of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants.  UNDP, Beyond Scarcity: power, poverty and the global water crisis, 1966, p. 173. Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources is preparing a plan to solve the water crisis in Basra, which has been one of the most prominent issues successive governments have failed to address. Authorities have also mismanaged the design, budgeting, and implementation of engineering projects to address the water crisis and provide engineering solutions to improve water quality and quantity. Immediate action on water and sanitation is crucial to securing a long-term solutions to Iraq’s myriad problems, according to UNICEF Special Representative in Iraq Roger Wright. It’s yet another example of what can happen when nations work together and help each other out. This silt is deposited in river channels, in canals, and on the flood plains. In the province of Nineveh, villagers have deserted 70 villages in search of water because the sands have covered homes, roads, and land. The head of the environment department in the Basra Province has estimated that 45% of the country has been substantially affected by desertification; other experts maintain that as much as 90% of Iraq has been afflicted to some extent..  John Bulloch and Adel Darwish, Water Wars: Coming Conflict in the Middle East. Iraqi woman sits on parched land in southern Iraq. However, even sufficient levels of chlorine would be unable to get rid of certain contaminates. Canals branching out of the Tigris which are used to water rice, wheat and barley fields have run dry, leaving the fields barren. However, there is an extensive system of diversions and irrigation canals dating back centuries, with more than a dozen major reservoir projects, a few on the main river systems but most on tributaries. RTD visits the city and the Mesopotamian Marshes and meets environmentalist, Dr Azzam Alwash, to find out why things have got so bad and what needs to change. Source: Baghdadpost.com/ar/80306, July 21, 2015.  Yaqein.net.politics/265327, July 9, 2020. The water crisis in Iraq produces several key consequences for the country. Contaminated water carries the risk of waterborne illnesses. There are many treaties, agreements, and conventions which regulate the water rights of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, going back to the Peace Treaty between Turkey and the Allies signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on July 24, 1932 which calls for protecting the acquired rights by Syria and Iraq in the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates. In Iraq, the soil has a high saline content and the flood water was needed to wash the soil and prepare it for the next planting season. The water crisis in Iraq is making the people of Basra sick. © 1998-2020, The Middle East Media Research Institute All Rights Reserved. The water resources are Turkey's, the oil resources are theirs. The Ataturk Dam, the sixth largest rock-filled dam in the world, is the key structure for the development of the Lower Euphrates River region. While Turkey has often promised to increase the quantity of water in the Euphrates, it has failed to do so, except randomly and for short durations. However, wars, economic sanctions, damming, pollution and decreased rainfall have together created a water crisis in Iraq. In Iraq, the ever growing shortage of water is threatening a fertile land with desertification. Same Old Politics Will Not Solve Iraq Water Crisis Addressing Iraq's water crisis should be a priority for any incoming prime […] Estimates are that it will cost $32 billion upon completion. As we review the situation 11 years after the study was first published, we see one inescapable conclusion – the danger of water shortages and subsequent desertification has become even more real. Iraq’s prime minister has promised better water services to the city, and al-Ajwady, the deputy governor, said more than 60 projects to improve water quality for Basrawis are currently in the works.  However, the construction of the Ataturk Dam has reduced the water flow in the Euphrates by one-fifth. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. By Dr Renad Mansour and Glada Lahn, for the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatham House). Iraqi Minister of Oil Resources Dr. Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid has questioned whether Turkey continues to adhere to a slogan uttered by some of its leaders about "a barrel of oil for a barrel of water. The Middle East region, which is already one of the most volatile regions in the world could become even more volatile if millions of its people cannot find water to drink, let alone to grow food. The water crisis is also undermining the stability of the country’s federal governance model, by occasionally sparking disputes between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government, as well as between governorates in the south. In the face of water shortages and contamination of the existing water sources, residents have been forced to purchase water at high prices. The crisis is the result of climate change that caused a rise in temperature and the decline of rainfall. Iraq faces a complex water crisis that is expected to persist and might have implications at the humanitarian, socio-economic, security and social levels, including population movements. While Iraq was engaged in wars or internal conflicts, its neighbors were busy building their dams and reservoirs.  Not long before this study was issued, the author testified on June 6, 2007 before the staff of the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate. Iraq already faces water scarcity as a major threat to its population; beyond recent drinking water crises in regions of southern Iraq around Basra, the country is facing reduced water access due to upstream damming in Iran, Syria, and Turkey. Both rivers are fed by snowpack and rainfall in eastern Turkey and northwest Iran, and they discharge peaks in March and May, too late for winter crops and too early for summer crops. This is a matter of sovereignty. , The Turkish GAP Program And Its Impact On Water Resources In Iraq. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, “The Borgen Project is an incredible nonprofit organization that is addressing poverty and hunger and working towards ending them.”  Al-Mada (Iraq), October 28, 2008, and Al-Sabah (Iraq), June 9, 2009, quoting an official in the Ministry of Water Resources. Syria created Buhayrat Assad (Lake Assad) with the construction of Tabaqah Dam on the Euphrates River, which was completed in 1973, upstream of the town of Al-Raqqah. Silt downstream: The Tigris and Euphrates carry large amounts of silt downstream. Now Iraq has mounted a campaign among the three donors to withhold further funding of the project, estimated to cost $1.68 billion, in an attempt to force Turkey to increase the amount of water reaching Iraq through the Euphrates River.  Nimrod Raphaeli, Potential Water Conflict in the Middle East, MEMRI, Inquiry and Analysis, No. Basra, the richest city in Iraq with little water to drink. Members of parliament insist that a provision guaranteeing Iraq's share of water of the two rivers should be included in the agreement. Experts warn the country’s next security crisis could … Environmental factors: Water quality has been declining as a result of water salinity and water contamination. While regional neighbours build dams and block rivers, Iraq is focused on security and reconstruction. Materials may only be cited with proper attribution, "Neither Syria nor Iraq can lay claim to Turkey's rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil. In a most critical comment, Dr. Abdul-Latif Jamal Rashid, Iraq's minister of water resources, said in an interview about the water problems of Iraq: "The Iranian side participates actively in the deterioration of the water condition in southern Iraq and particularly in the loss of its agriculture and livestock... By diverting, inside Iran, the tributaries that previously flowed into the Tigris River, and the Karun and Karkha Rivers that had flowed into Shatt Al-Arab, Iran has participated in a direct way to the loss of the agricultural land by causing water shortage and increasing salinity." Among them are public health concerns, decreased agricultural productivity and political unrest. The Aliso Dam was initially scheduled for completion in 2020, but construction was suspended in December 2008 for 180 days at the request of the three European countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, which provide the guarantee to the engineering companies involved in the construction of the dam, on the grounds that Turkey has "persistently violated cultural and social provisions that were part of the deal." The many ongoing challenges in Iraq—from political upheaval and COVID-19 to plummeting oil prices and the resurgence of the Islamic State—often overshadow the precarious state of the country’s water resources, even though water shortages are exacerbating many of those very issues. Iraq is no exception. UNESCO is partnering with the Iraqi government to reform the water management sector and improve irrigation systems. Indeed, a report issued recently by the European Water Association warned that Iraq could completely lose the waters of the two rivers by 2040. The water of the Shatt al-Arab has been affected by seawater due to reduced river flow and by fecally contaminated groundwater which seeps in through cracks in pipes. Additionally, UNESCO addressed the water crisis in Iraq through improvements to irrigation systems, often utilizing ancient methods that have existed in the region for millennia. , In a similar vein, the Iraqi daily Yaqein quotes experts who warn that "Iraq faces an environmental crisis that threatens the lives of millions." This year, UNICEF Iraq and its partners anticipate tankering 300 million litres of safe water and distributing water and hygiene kits to up to 120,000 families in crisis. Government neglect: Years of war and conflict have deflected government attention from the water sector. In July 2019, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Iraq identified 21,314 internally displaced […] With the help of huge tunnels, Turkey plans to divert the waters of the basin into the Harran field, where 1.7 million hectares of land will be irrigated. In July 2019, the United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq identified 21,314 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the central and southern governorates who were displaced due to the … New Report and Webtool Provide Insight into Iraq's Looming Water Crisis: IOM and Deltares Iraq faces a complex water crisis that is expected to persist and might have implications at the humanitarian, socioeconomic, security and social levels, including population movements. In the northern Kurdish governorates, for instance, UNESCO has worked to restore the Kahrez system, an ancient method of providing drinking water and agricultural irrigation. The growing need for water by the riparian countries makes the fair distribution of this finite source a potential source of conflict, if not wars. The Turkish GAP program has already had a great negative impact on the water situation in Iraq, which will be greatly exacerbated when the Aliso Dam is completed.  International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Economic Development of Iraq. And the timing couldn't be worse. This phenomenon, according to the ministry of water resources, means the spread of sand dunes and changes in the weather, in addition to the reduction of natural grazing, the deterioration of water quality, and the increase of pollution. However, the ability to exert control over the supp… According to Iraqi minister of water resources Dr. Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid, the estimated annual Iraq needs are approximately 50 billion cubic meters, 60% to originate from the Tigris and the remainder from the Euphrates. Turkey, in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourse, continues to build dams upstream that deprive downstream countries of their rights on trans-boundary rivers, as it considers the Tigris waters as its own. We have a right to do anything we like. The Kurdish region of Iraq, whose farmers rely almost entirely on rainfall, had a completely dry season in 2008. Farmers in Harran fields are already harvesting their crops, especially the superb-quality Turkish cotton. Iraq depends on water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, water sources also shared by Turkey, Syria and Iran. A view of Shatt al-Arab from Al-Tanouma district, east of Basra, Iraq, Sept. 21, 2018. The situation culminated in an acute water crisis that sent at least 118,000 people to hospital in 2018 and led to violent protests. Iran has been a factor in reducing the water to Iraq by diverting major tributaries inside Iran. *Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst (emeritus) at MEMRI.  Iraq, historically the land of plenty, now must import much of what the country needs to feed its people. This is a matter of sovereignty. Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project (known as GAP in Turkish), which began in the 1970s is partially to blame for Iraq’s water shortage. Whilst the seemingly desperate water crisis in Iraq now has an evidence-base from which to plan strategic, targeted and impactful responses based on a shared understanding of nation-wide WASH needs, further research will be required. Iraqi authorities have failed to ensure for almost 30 years that Basra residents have sufficient safe drinking water, resulting in on-going health concerns, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Iraq acknowledges that, even together, Turkey, Iran, and Syria do not constitute the only responsibility for the decline of the level of water in the two rivers. The agency is also collaborating with officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government to train workers in the water management field and has provided hydrological testing equipment. By its water policy, Iran is also damaging Iraq's marshes and undermining the efforts to revitalize them. It is also ironic, the article points out, that hospitals have been a cause of water pollution as they dump medical waste into the rivers, further polluting the water. Syria has also limited the water flow into Iraq. The region has suffered from a lack of reliable clean drinking water for the past 30 years. Corruption within local businesses and governmental institutions has also prevented engineering soluti… A recent article in Al-Hura carries a warning that Iraq was facing a water crisis that was driving the country on the "verge of an abyss."  In fact, merchants in the city of Basra are importing desalinated water from the UAE to meet the needs of the people. At the same time, there is considerable waste of water because of outmoded irrigation and drainage methods. The acute cause was the water contamination crisis. We have a right to do anything we like. The report, entitled "Basra is Thirsty: Iraq's Failure to Manage the Water Crisis," said a full year after Basra's violent protests, authorities continue to allow activities that pollute the province's water resources despite the health risks to residents. Each of these countries has its own operational plans for water storage and utilization. Energy. When it was first published in 2009, this study sought to highlight the growing danger of water shortage and desertification in Iraq as a result of the many dam constructions by river upstream countries and by years of neglect and misguided water use by Iraq itself. Intake from the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers–Iraq’s two main sources of water–is decreasing at … The situation has reached such extremes that the people of southern Iraq are importing drinking water from UAE desalination plants.. The Water Crisis In Iraq The land we know today as Iraq was, in ancient times, called Mesopotamia, or the land of the two rivers – a reference to the two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which fed the region with water, allowing the growth of a great civilization, and which have supplied Iraq with water even to the present day. The land we know today as Iraq was, in ancient times, called Mesopotamia, or the land of the two rivers – a reference to the two great rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which fed the region with water, allowing the growth of a great civilization, and which have supplied Iraq with water even to the present day. Although the Kahrez systems have fallen into disrepair in past years, UNESCO is currently engaged in cleaning and restoring the wells in order to provide drinking water and irrigation for the surrounding communities. This statement remains valid to this day.. Solving The Water Crisis in Iraq Historically, Iraq has been a particularly fertile region, containing both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. After years of neglect, declining water flows, and repeated frequencies of drought, large areas of Iraq, particularly in the southern region, are facing a serious problem of desertification. Currently, 16% of households report daily problems with supply and 20% use an unsafe drinking water source. Mustafa Habib.  United Nations, "Convention on the law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourse," Article 7. Iraq's water comes primarily from Turkey and partly from Iran.  It is known, for example, that during the eight-year war between Iraq and Iran, the sides exchanged artillery fire that destroyed two-thirds of the palm trees that provide both income to farmers and a protective natural barrier against the expansion of the desert. The Euphrates, 1,730 miles long, flows through Syria while the Tigris, 1,150 miles long, comes down from Turkey into Iraq. Afghan Dam Constructions Threaten Iran Water Share. Borders can be redrawn, refugees resettled, trade barriers removed, and agriculture reformed and made more efficient. Turkey refused to convene a tripartite panel established in the 1960s to consider water-sharing issues. Iraqi water management plants suffer from a shortage of chlorine to treat contaminated water due to government regulation aimed at preventing armed groups from acquiring chlorine for use in weapons. The absence of economic water pricing policies: Years of water abundance dulled the need to treat water as a scarce commodity, which ought to be priced in a manner that would encourage rational use and discourage water waste. Iraq, like most countries of the Middle East, has been experiencing a multi-year severe drought. The suspension expired in early July. The lack of clean water and electricity has triggered violent protests in Basra, the economic capital of Iraq, which has vast oil reserves and deep-sea port access connecting the country to the international market. Currently, DTM collects information about the number of individuals displaced due to the latest crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic and the drought crisis in Iraq. Iraq also suspects that the neighboring countries are deliberately reducing the supply of water to undermine its agriculture and make it dependent on them for agricultural products, meat, and poultry. The residents of the city of Faw, 60 miles south of Basra and the southernmost city in Iraq, have complained that, by diverting the Karun River from Shatt Al-Arab into the Iranian Bahman Shir River, Iran has created a severe shortage of drinking water for the residents of the city. Environmental Policy and Law, 27/3 (1997), pp.233-337.  One of the ironies of the situation is that these villagers are afraid to drill for water because in one instance the drilling brought out not water but close-to-the-surface natural gas which exploded, causing a fire that took several days to extinguish.. We don't say we share their oil resources and they cannot say they share out water resources." Map of modern Iraq showing the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (Source:Globalwater.pbworks.com). There are other factors which are … There is also a network of smaller rivers from Iran, some of which feed into the Tigris. There is a Syrian-Iraqi agreement signed in Baghdad on April 17, 1989 which calls for the distribution of the Euphrates on the Turkish-Syrian border with 58% for Iraq and 42% for Syria. Iraq is already being negatively impacted by the Turkish South Eastern Anatolia Project, known in Turkish as GAP, which has been held responsible for the ever-declining water flows into the two rivers. Additionally, UNESCO works to facilitate agreements on water management between Iraq and its neighbors. In Basra, 120,000 residents required hospital treatment in just one year due to contaminated water. Water Crisis in Iran. Recently, the situation was further aggravated by the twin crises of the spread of the coronavirus and the sudden sharp decline in the price of crude oil – which provides perhaps as much as 90 percent of Iraq's national revenues – thus limiting the capacity of the government to undertake serious measures to ameliorate the situation even if it driven by the harsh circumstances to do so. Population growth with a rapid shift toward urbanization will render these needs even greater and the risks of armed conflicts far more imaginable in the future. Comprising of 22 dams and 19 power plants, this scheme is ostensibly for socio-economic developmentin a region of Turkey that has traditionally been poorer, less educated and experienced more gender inequality than the rest of the country. Because of this crushing of the surface, which he has termed "wind disrobement," Dr. Al-Faraji expects sandstorms to prevail over Iraq for the entire summer season. But there must be water to meet basic human needs. Iraqis blame their government over water shortages, and Turkey decides to delay filling upstream Ilisu Dam. Some farmers have been reduced from cultivating 60 hectares of land to just five. In his testimony he warned: "Increased water contamination due to inadequate treatment is costly in terms of public health, child mortality, communicable diseases, salinization of agricultural land, and reduced fish catch." If Iraqis have access to water, it is often unsafe for consumption. The chaos sparked by the Islamic State's territorial gains has worsened the country's water crisis, but Iraq's inaction in the face of other threats is perhaps a greater problem. Afghan Dam Constructions Threaten Iran Water Share. Half a century ago, the region sought to control flooding. MOBILE VIEW. The GAP is one of the most ambitious and costly development projects in the world. 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In Harran fields are already harvesting their crops, especially the superb-quality Turkish cotton 3.. The Johns Hopkins Press, 1952, p. 173 more than Ankara claim! Are forced to rely on tap water which may carry diseases and Euphrates carry amounts... 118,000 people in Basra were hospitalized to treat afflictions related to contaminated water meet basic needs! Resettled, trade barriers removed, and Turkey decides to delay filling upstream Ilisu Dam focused on security and.! With desertification unable to get rid of certain contaminates diverted river water for use on plantations! And Turkey decides to delay filling upstream Ilisu Dam works to facilitate agreements on water in. As well must import much of what can happen when nations work together and help each other out resettled trade. City in Iraq seems dire, steps are already harvesting their crops, a significant issue in Basra agriculture.
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