Shatha Khalil *
Iraq has been suffering for years from low water levels flowing on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from the neighboring Turkey and Iran. The Iraqi government warned of its repercussions on drinking water and agriculture and is preparing to enter into a water war against them, simultaneously cutting several tributaries of the Tigris and Euphrates and reducing Baghdad’s share of river water. .
Sources in the Turkish government confirmed that it completed the basic work of filling the “Aliso” on the Euphrates River, south of Anatolia, which has a huge storage capacity estimated at 10.4 billion cubic meters, which affects the water releases of the Tigris River.
As for Iran, it has also cut water imports to the Tigris from 40 percent to 15 percent due to projects and dams it has built on the river in recent years. It built the Daryan Dam on the Tigris River, which is 47 kilometers long, and is the biggest source of concern for Iraqis. , and Iran is trying to divert the course of the Tigris River, in which case, water will be reduced, and may not reach Iraq, which will suffer drought.
Experts warn of the continued drought crisis in Iraq, leading to a clear decline in the water level of the Tigris and Euphrates, and the decline almost completely, as happened in February in a number of cities and villages in the southern province of Maysan, where there are no internal water reservoirs and exploitation of the groundwater, in addition to the lack of dams, which greatly exacerbated the crisis.
The head of the Energy and Water Development Center in Iraq, Laith Shubar, predicted that the Tigris River would fall to more than 50% of its current status if the government did not interfere. The unstable political and security situation in the country “the war against the terrorist organization ISIS and liberates the regions in addition of internal problems, ” Lack of revenue, administrative and financial corruption, and a deficit in the general budget of the state, which was reflected in the neglect of this file.
“The water crisis is global,” he said. “There is supposed to be a strategic plan to deal with this situation, to prepare alternatives and warn citizens early.
The head of the Committee on Agriculture and Water in the Iraqi parliament, Fratt Tamimi, said that the water crisis is worsening and there are no radical solutions, adding that the recent rains “have helped us and we have a good stock in the lakes and dams and reservoirs.
“But the government’s actions remain without ambition in this file so far, nor has an emergency plan been put in place to reduce consumption
Al-Tamimi accused Iran and Turkey of benefiting from the hit on the agricultural sector because Iraq will increase imports from them. He also expressed surprise at the absence of the role of the Foreign Ministry in this regard. “We make a reservation to the Foreign Ministry because it has no role in the water file, especially with neighboring countries.
The Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Hassan al-Janabi said that there are fears that the areas of southern Iraq will suffer a great drought because of the water shortage this summer in areas south of Baghdad and the city of Nasiriyah and other cities. It is expected that Iraq will witness severe drought due to the expected high temperature and high Evaporation rate and all indicators indicate this.
Tigris and Euphrates
The existence of Iraq in its ancient and modern civilizations was associated with the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which are the source of the growth and survival of Mesopotamia.
The Tigris River flows from the Taurus Mountains southeast of Anatolia in Turkey. It passes through Syria 50 kilometers in Qamishli to enter Iraq at the town of Fishkhabour and then Mosul to Baghdad, up to the far south to Basra, where it forms with the Euphrates the River of Shatt al-Arab, which flows into the Arabian Gulf.
Tigris River is fed by a large group of tributaries originating from the Iranian and Turkish borders with Iraq, including the Khabur, the Great Zab, the small Zab and Al-Adheem and the Diyala River. These tributaries represent two-thirds of the river’s waters. The last third comes from the Turkish springs of Anatolia and currently, more than 20 million Iraqis are living around it as it is considered the first source for drinking water, agriculture and industry.
The Euphrates is the longest river in the Arab region and stems from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. It is joined by several tributaries before entering the Syrian territory at the city of Gerbels, passing through Deir Al-Zour and then Al-Bo Kamal and then it enters Iraq through the city of Al-Qaim in Anbar province west of the country passing through al-Fallujah heading to areas adjacent to Baghdad and then southern Iraq to meet with the Tigris in Basra also, and the Euphrates and Nile in Egypt are the most abundant two rivers, according to international reports
According to the adviser of the Ministry of Water Resources, Zafer Abdullah, Iraq is going through a year of water scarce, in which the water revenues are less than its general rates, so that they do not meet the needs of natural consumption.
Abdullah added that the government intensified its negotiations with the Turkish side in order to increase the release of water in the Tigris River, and led to Ankara’s approval of the Iraqi demand to postpone work on the completion of the Aliso dam to June instead of the previous date in March.
It was agreed with the Turkish government about two weeks ago to increase the level of the Tigris River from 60 to 90 cubic meters, through increased water releases.
In this context, a senior Iraqi minister in the government of Haider Abadi, who declined to be named, that Iraq considers the current policy of Iran and Turkey as a declaration of war, especially with the issuance of figures and reports indicating the desertification of more than a quarter million hectares of agricultural (hectare = 10000 square meters) as a result of drought that Hit cities in southern Iraq over the past months.
The minister affirmed that the cabinet formed a supreme committee like a crisis cell, including representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, water resources, agriculture, industry and interior, to discuss the necessary measures to confront the crisis to discuss the appropriate response or manner towards the neighbors’ manipulation of Iraq’s water share contrary to international treaties and conventions.
He pointed out that “Turkey and Iran have stolen from the Iraqi share of water, the first by building dams on the Tigris and Euphrates, and the other by diverting the tributaries of the Tigris to internal lakes and rivers and diversion its path and prevent it from entering Iraq.
He pointed out that at least 30 springs of water from Iran have been diverted by the Iranians, and there are so far 17 villages in southern Iraq and northern where the migration started by the population because of water scarcity, especially as they live on fishing and agriculture.
The adviser of the Center for Urban and rural planning in Iraq, Mohammed Abdul Latif al-Amri expected the loss of Iraq in all sectors affected by the drought this year more than 10 billion dollars.
He pointed out that the Turkish side refuses till now to consider the Tigris and Euphrates as two international rivers shared by three countries – Turkey, Syria and Iraq – and insists that they are Turkish rivers. This impedes any international action in this framework, especially in the matter of dam construction and the issue can not be turned into a file like the Nile River and the crisis of Egypt with neighboring countries.
“The losses will not only be material, but will have a severe impact on society and the demographic change that will take place in the cities of drought,” he said.
He pointed out that Iraq currently is getting about 7 billion cubic meters of Tigris annually after it was 20 billion cubic meters, so the trespass and difference can be observed .
Experts believe that “the water crisis is very serious and warns of internal water wars between the provinces and others between countries that the issue of water is dangerous, and heading towards fierce water wars.
In the same context: MP of the National Alliance Ahmed Salal asked Iraqi government to exercise economic pressure on Turkey to ensure the provision of adequate quantities of water to Iraq, and proposed the internationalization of the issue of water crisis and present it to the United Nations, because it foreshadows an environmental and humanitarian disaster in Iraq.
As for the agricultural experts in Iraq, they see that the water war “began not long ago, when Iran cut off 38 waterways that were reaching Iraq and introduced it to its country. As for Turkey, for many years began to reduce the levels of the Euphrates River until it reached very low rates
The construction of the Aliso dam will cut off more than 45 percent of the upcoming revenues of the Tigris River to Iraq from Turkey, and Iraq should ask Iran to activate the Shatt al-Arab agreement.
The Iraqi geologist Ibrahim al-Morshedi said that Iran has worked to change the riverbeds of the rivers feeding the Tigris River to new rivers and reservoirs within its territory as part of a plan to cut water flowing into Iraqi territory. Iran cut off water from the Al-Wund River passing through Khanaqin city (in Diyala province, north east of Baghdad ) And the small Zab river in the city of Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq.
According to member of the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Marshlands in the Iraqi parliament, Mohamed Chihod sees, that the government is to bear the responsibility for this water crisis, because of the failure of its policy in dealing with the source countries of Turkey and Iran.
He pointed out that the lack of internal water reservoirs and the lack of exploitation of groundwater and the lack of dams have contributed to the aggravation of the crisis and the decline of Iraq’s benefits from the water of the two rivers, which amounts to 75%.
Agriculture in Iraq, according to specialists, relies on traditional methods, which contributes to the decline in the level of rivers, because farmers withdraw large amounts of water with “irrigation” pumps, which leads to an increase in consumption instead of relying on drip and other modern irrigation methods .
The Chihod calls on the Iraqi government to use pressure papers on the countries of the water source for the purpose of obtaining the full benefits of the country’s water, by hinting to reduce trade with Ankara, which amounts to more than twenty billion dollars annually.
He said the negotiations between Baghdad and Ankara are not of much value, because they must be upgraded to be with the first official responsible for the water file in Turkey, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not between the two ministries of water resources, being a serious file.
In addition, the government must move to build new dams to absorb the wasted water to the Gulf without benefiting from it. The lack of internal water reservoirs, the lack of groundwater and the lack of dams have contributed to the worsening of the crisis and the diminution of Iraq’s benefits from the waters of the two rivers.
It seems that the water crisis will remain a serious threat to the Iraqis to drought and thirst unless the real efforts and attempts to be made to avoid the disaster and rescue Iraq , and requires a serious attitude , and take a number of precautionary measures to deal with the threat of drought, and solve the problem through peaceful negotiations and if this can not be done , the Iraqi government must internationalize the issue of water crisis and submit it before the United Nations, because it would cause an environmental and humanitarian disaster in the provinces of Iraq.
Economic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies