Food security in Iraq is threatened by the control of the countries of Turkey and Iran on the sources of its rivers, and possession of the largest quantities of water, and although the Turkish government promised to increase Iraq’s share of water, after several Iraqi appeals, but the water level is still recording a decline where its effects have become evident in the low level Water in the Tigris and Euphrates and their streams and increase the salinity ratio.
Turkey has set up Allesso dam in the Hassan Kivah area on the Tigris River, which Turkey is supposed to start filling it in June this year, depriving 697 hectares of Iraqi land of water.
It will also negatively affect irrigation projects and the generation of electric power with the continued risk of drought and its repercussions on the people in the Iraqi provinces, according to the Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform and Water Resources, the internal factors contribute to increasing the problem of drought, including population increase that increase demand for water, and neglect maintenance of desalination projects in Iraqi provinces, and put them in the hands of non- efficient cadres , which increased the percentage of salinity.
There are specialized studies that raised the possibility of taking advantage of Lake Tharthar and Lake of Najaf; to store water as they are natural depressions and to establish a channel between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to feed the latter and regulate water permanence.
The construction of dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by Turkey and the diversion of Iranian rivers feeding the tributaries of the Tigris, leading to drying and ending of life, with the aim of economic and political pressure and control, and the achievement of new gains in Iraq.
The importance of the study:
The importance of the study lies in the definition of the problem, its size and its dimensions, the most important Turkish projects on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the number of rivers in which Iran has changed its watercourse and its impact on the tributaries inside Iraq and its impact on the lives of the Iraqi people.
Problem of study:
The problem of water and its scarcity in Iraq is a direct threat to water and food security. It is becoming increasingly dangerous when Turkey and Iran to continue to build dams on the Tigris River and to change and dry the streams that feed the tributaries of Iraq.
The dispute over water sources threatens to trigger local and regional conflicts. This calls for serious intervention by the Iraqi government through adoption of strategic dimension that calls for the formulation of unified water policies to meet the challenges of water security and its implications.
The study aims to cover a number of the main objectives of the Turkish and Iranian policy towards Iraq, and to show that the economy – and the economy alone – is the main driver of the countries’ policy towards each other and to show the extent of the losses incurred by Iraq as the result of control on its water resources.
The study aims to achieve its objectives by answering the following questions:
– What are the most important sources of water in Iran and Turkey, where to go and the watercourse and the downfall and the points of disagreement between those countries?
What is the impact of the dams on Iraq, especially dams of Ataturk and Alesso?
– Identify the Turkish and Iranian strategy in the exploitation of water, and the extent of damage to Iraqi environmental, economic and agricultural security?
Terminology of study:
International waters: Water that passes through several countries and shares different proportions of the water source. It is usually an international river, where the river flows from a state and runs and casts in another country or several countries.
National water: Water that flows, runs and casts in the same State, and does not exceed its geographical limits.
Water security: the state sufficiency of water resources, filling demand, securing stock by diversifying water resources, optimizing exploitation, developing investment methods and improving performance by avoiding waste of water resources.
Water crisis: is the imbalance of water distribution and balance, and how to manage it between the riparian countries, the countries they share that have the right to use international water, and benefit from it.
The study presents the problem and its dimensions and uses the analytical method to reach the results, after collecting the available information of all kinds.
Iraq’s water resources are concentrated in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which are the vital artery of the agricultural, industrial, and economic and life sectors.
Tigris River (1)
The Tigris River originates from the Taurus Mountains in the south-east of Anatolia, with a total length of about 1718 km, of which about 268 km in Turkish territory, which passes through many cities, including Bismill, Ibn Umar and Kivah Fortress, 1400 km in Iraqo territories and 50 km in the Syrian territory starting from the city of Qamishli, which is different from the Euphrates River, which cuts a large distance in the Syrian territory before entering Iraq, and it runs in Iraq about 1400 kilometers, passing through several cities, including: Mosul, Baquba, Samarra, Baghdad, Tikrit, Beiji, Amarah, Kut and Qurnah.
The Tigris River enters Iraq from “Fesh Khabur” and the river is filled with many different tributaries, the most important of which are: large Zab, small Zab, Khabur, Diyala and Al-Azim, where rivers from Iran feed these tributaries by 66% of its water.
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet in the south of Iraq and unite in the Shatt al-Arab together until they reach the Arabian Gulf and settle there.
Euphrates River (2)
The Euphrates River originates from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey and consists of two sub-rivers. The first is the Murad Su River. This river originates from Mount Ararat as well as Lake Wan. The other river is the Kara Su River, which originates from the northeast Anatolia region.
The two rivers are running westward, where they gather together and heading for the Syrian and Iraqi territories until they meet the Tigris River in the Kerma Ali region, south of Basra, and eventually join the Arabian Gulf.
The length of the Euphrates River is about 2,940 kilometers, distributed between Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s share of the Euphrates River is about 1176 kilometers, Syria is about 610 kilometers, and Iraq is about 1160 kilometers. The width of the river ranges from 200 to 2000 meters.
Turkey’s huge dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (3)
Turkey is implementing the GAP project, which includes several projects to benefit from the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the most important of which are:
The Ataturk dam was built on the Euphrates River in the governorate of Orfa. It is one of the largest dams in the world. It was built with rocks, concrete and fillings. It is 184 meters high and 1820 meters long.
The dam was completed in 1992 with the establishment of an industrial lake with a surface area of 817 km2. The volume of water collected in the dam is about 48 billion cubic meters of water. The dam contains eight turbines for generating electricity with capacity of 2,400 MW.
* Alesso Dam (4):
It is a huge artificial dam built on the Tigris River near the village of Alesso and along the border of Mardin province and Chernak in Turkey. It is about 140 meters high and about 1820 meters long. The dam is accompanied by the construction of a power plant to generate 1200 megawatts of electricity, and the dam water will be used for irrigation and feeding the groundwater.
It is one of 22 dams within the southeastern Anatolia project and aims to generate electricity, flood control and water storage. The dam provides capacity of 1.200 m3 and a capacity of 10.4 billion m3.
With this achievement, Turkey has completed the construction of the second largest and biggest dam after the Ataturk Dam, where they were constructed on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The to dams are the most largest water projects of Turkey built in the southeast of the country.
Turkish and Iranian purpose of the construction of dams:
– Economic objectives, where Turkey wants through the exploitation of water Tigris and Euphrates to create human, industrial and agricultural development to revive the historically poor area in southeastern Anatolia and turn it into a basket of food in the Middle East; to overcome the problem caused by poverty in terms of natural energy resources, including oil, gas and the rest of the minerals, and invest this economic superiority to trade with oil and other energy sources with Iraq and Syria.
The argument of the Turks to establish huge water and electricity projects on the rivers flowing from their lands without consulting with their neighbors (Syria and Iraq) and not taking into account their interests in this vital matter is based on an argument inconsistent with all the water laws relating to the waters of international rivers that are running permanently and crossing the common borders and this matter has created problems and complexities that have reached to the brink of wars from time to time.
Iran is also working from its part on the construction of dams and facilities to dry the rivers and tributaries that were pouring into the Tigris River, which fed from its lands, changed the course of the rivers and installed installations and water and electricity dams , deprived Iraq of a large share of water that was feeding the south.
Dangers of Turkish and Iranian dams on Iraq:
(5) The size of the dangers and the impact of the dams on Iraq lies in the seizure half of the water and deprive Iraq from it , and Dr. Hamed al-Dabbagh, president of the University of Mustansiriya, said earlier that “the seizure of Turkey in large amounts of Tigris and Euphrates rivers , will not introduce irrigation projects and power generation in Syria and Iraq to damage but also puts them at risk of drought and disaster . ”
A source at the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources said that the natural amount of Tigris River from the water at the Turkish border is about 20.93 billion cubic meters annually, and after filling the dam “Aliso” fell to 9.7 billion cubic meters per year of water.
The dam will deprive 696,000 hectares of Iraqi agricultural land of water.
The Iraqi cities that are located on the Tigris River, which runs from north to south, such as Mosul, Samarra, Tikrit, Baiji, Baquba, Baghdad, Hilla, Madinah, Kut, Amara, Qurna, and other areas are affected noting that dams and power installations have been established since decades ago that will deprive these cities and installations and others from irrigation, drinking and electricity generation a lot , a lot of water resources necessary for life.
The impact of these dams on the Iraqis is shown by the deterioration in the quality of water and increased pollution because of the investment of Turkey and the construction of some water projects on the river basin, leaving serious negative effects on the population living in the downstream country, Iraq.
The flow of water will fall by 60% from 20 to 9 billion m3, which will also affect the entire river basin population where their lives will be severely affected by the establishment of this project starting from the way they live, their geographical distribution, their economic status and ultimately their health status which will be greatly affected by the increase of the river pollution in drinking water.
The construction of dams has an impact on the living conditions of the Iraqi population, where the problem is exacerbated by the large population growth expected in the coming years, the expansion of urban centers and the increasing need for potable water and other daily uses.And its impact includes the indiscriminate displacement and the change of economic methods of work and their transformation from productive patterns to unproductive patterns ,
as (5) centers of Iraqi provinces, (13) districts and (21) areas will be affected , they are all located on the basin of this river and its other tributaries, which will lead the population to Leaving their agricultural, industrial and handicraft professions and migration from rural areas and villages to cities and other communities.
Agricultural production will be greatly reduced by increasing drought, degradation of rangelands and natural fields, and declining livestock, all this will further exacerbate the social problems of the population of the basin in which they live in the future.
Its construction will lead to a deterioration in the economic reality of the Tigris population in Iraq due to the decline in imports of water running to the country, especially farmers and peasants who depend mainly on the river water in the fields of their fields and farms, which will suffer from lack of water supplies in addition od emergence the need to import instead of sufficiency or semi- sufficiency of some agricultural crops, and a significant increase in the unemployment rates resulting from the high migration of peasants and the low employment opportunities for the unemployed.
It will eliminate one-third of Iraq’s agricultural land, estimated at more than 4 million donums over the next 25 years. This means depriving hundreds of thousands of farmers of their jobs and agricultural occupations, which are a major source of their livelihood, as well as fishermen who depend on fishing, As the low discharge rates of the waters of Tigris river will affect the development of the country’s fisheries.
The poor health of urban dwellers
Because of its negative and dangerous effects on both the environment and human beings, the water shortage prevents large numbers of the population of the basin from obtaining adequate drinking water, despite the deterioration of its quality and increase the rates of river pollution by containing high percentages of chemicals and fertilizers used by Turkish farmers.
The construction of dams will also affect the emergence of many serious epidemic diseases among the population, in a large and huge extent , especially infectious diseases such as plague, cholera, typhoid and malaria.
Iraq was affected by earthquakes in Turkey
Turkey is located in an active seismic range where studies and scientific research indicate that the amount of water seized in the Turkish dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will increase the chances of earthquakes, which requires Iraq to obtain guarantees and pledges and guarantees to ensure its right to compensation for any material and human damages and losses may occur in the event of the collapse of one of the dams built on the two basins.
This will, of course, affect the safety and security of the population living or spreading along the downstream and will severely affect and reduce the groundwater, increasing the salinity of the land, for failure to operate water discharges properly .
Official Iraqi statements warning of the magnitude of the disaster to come to Iraq
The Minister of Water Resources, Hassan al-Janabi, said that Iraq is under threat of water scarcity, pointing out that “the events in Maysan province, Majar al- Kabir , Al-Kahla, Al-Musharah , Al-Aredh because all of them are exposed to the drought and he pointed out that the design of al-Majar al-Kabir is about 150 cubic meter of the second but now and because of the water shortage, it has 10 to 15 cubic meters of water per second. ”
The amount of water coming from Iran to the Tigris, which feeds the Dokan dam, has fallen by 40 percent, and the proportion of water of the Diyala River , which comes from Iran, has dropped by about the same percentage.
al- Janabi said (7) that the arrival of severe drought on the countryside will severely affect it , and expected the areas of southern Baghdad and Nasiriyah will be unable to get potable water for drinking in the coming summer, because of high temperatures and increased evaporation rates.
The Iraqi countryside has been badly affected, so agriculture will be affected as well as the marshes.
The geologist Ibrahim al-Murshidi said, (8)
“Iran has worked to change the riverbeds of the Tigris River to new rivers and reservoirs within its territory, as part of a plan to cut water flowing into Iraqi territory,” stressing that Iran cut water from the Alund river passes through the city of Khanaqin in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, and small zab river In the northern city of Sulaymaniyah.
He added that the Iranian government has completed the work of the dams, including: Sardasht dam, located between the cities of Sardasht, which has a storage capacity of 800 million cubic meters, which requires a month to be filled, “noting that” the program of the Iranian government to return water to Lake Werneh, Dried out for years and tried to revive it from the water of the small Zab River. ”
And al-Murshidi added “Water cuts have had a major impact on agriculture in Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Diyala, affecting hundreds of fish fields and gravel factories and sand scattered across the river,” And he pointed out “Iran’s continued imposition of a policy of hegemony over Iraq’s capabilities, especially water resources, means that Iraq is going to face a big crisis far greater than the crises of electricity and services that have suffered for some time.
The MP of the Kurdistan Change bloc (al-Tghier)
Amin Bakr warned, of Iran cut off the small Zab River from Iraq completely, and the drought of the river threatens of a real problem and the government has to interfere.
Bakr said: “The Iranian government cut off the waters of the small river Zab, which its sources are located in the north-west of Iran and extends for a distance of 402 km inside Iraq through the castle Dazi and Rania and Dokan up to the Tigris River and it is of great importance as it constitutes a large proportion of water for the Tigris River, It is one of the important tributaries of the Tigris River, where it flows into the Tigris river north of Baiji city after passing through the Elton Kubri area. It is one of the most important water resources in the Kirkuk region, where its water is an important source of drinking water.
he added “The Iranian government has been working for years to build two bridges on this river, which has a significant impact on Iraq’s water share and the danger has become real.”
Bakr said “The amount of water entering the Dukan dam in the Iraqi territories from the small Zab amounted to 30 thousand cubic meters / per second , but now the percentage is zero,”. And he pointed out “What remains is a reservoir of water from the Dokan Dam, which is not enough for water drinking projects for Sulaymaniyah and then the river will completely dry up.”
Bakir said “This is a flagrant violation of Iraq’s right to water, without taking into account the international laws relating to transboundary waters,” and he warned:
“The next few days will bring drought along the river,” “The government must intervene to pressure Iran to open the river at the time the peasants of these areas and marshes are suffering from the scarcity of Water during the hot summer “.
• Experts warned of the loss of Iraq to the Mesopotamia and the rivers running in the country during the next few years “in less than 5 years, the Mesopotamia will be ended in Iraq because of the dams to be adopted by Turkey. Tigris river has completely dried in many provinces (9)
How does Iraq protect its waters legally?
MP Iskandar Witwitt confirmed that Iraq has aright to make a lawsuit at the United Nations to force Turkey and Iran to negotiate for its water share.
He said “The water crisis has made hundreds of families leave their land and flee to the city, causing unemployment and low standard of living and economic,” pointing out that “the 1966 International Conference in Hensklee maintained the distribution of water among neighboring countries but Iraq did not join the conference .
And he added “The international law is on the side of Iraq to make a lawsuit at the United Nations to force Turkey and Iran to attend to negotiate to give the water quota to Iraq,” explaining “Successive governments and ministers have not taken steps to preserve Iraq’s right to get adequate water.”
Wuttout also put full responsibility on the “foreign ministers, planning, water resources and Iraqi politicians who have been in harmony with the Turks and Iranians since 2003 until the moment without achieving the desired goal in order to preserve Iraq’s water security.”
Iraq can protect itself and its waters and exit from the state of extortion, threats, blackmail and deadly water scarcity caused by the dams of neighboring countries Turkey and Iran with the following:
Iraq has proposed a new water strategy to ensure that the dams are filled with water from the two rivers and to reach long-term agreements with Turkey and Iran that allow Iraq to store the water it needs annually and not to affect it by storing it in the dams of the two countries.
* Build dozens of small dams or at least a small dam north of each Iraqi province, through which a river or a tributary to meet its need for water in emergencies and dry seasons to ensure that water is not scarce.
* Demanding moderation and good-neighborliness and reducing the construction of giant dams to generate electricity and intensive agriculture for commercial purposes at the expense of the lives of the Iraqi people.
* The Iraqi government submits a complaint to the international bodies or takes economic and political measures and deal with the crisis seriously.
* Undertaking international agreements between Iraq, Turkey and Iran under the auspices of the United Nations, based on the legal agreement on international watercourses for non-navigational purposes for the year 2014, specifying and guaranteeing in these agreements Iraq’s fair shares of Mesopotamia in a scientific and accurate manner and taking into account the needs of Iraq where the final estuary of the two rivers is located and the annual water-rentier rate of the two rivers and their tributaries. Without signing such agreements, the sword of thirsty and drought will remain an issue for Iraq and the Iraqis.
Experts of dams say the construction of the dam will make Turkey to control more than 80 percent of the Tigris and Euphrates waters, and Iran’s change of riverbeds that feed the tributaries of the Tigris, meaning that Iraq is in danger of a real disaster with water supplies threatening life in Mesopotamia.
Economic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies
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