A water crisis awaits Iraq

Rachael Cloughton

51992237 292x300 A water crisis awaits Iraq A crisis awaits Iraq following Turkey’s extensive dam building project, claims Azzam Alwash, the director of one of the country’s largest non-governmental environmental organisations, Nature Iraq. Yet little attention is being give to his proposed methods to avert catastrophe.

By 2050, Iraq is predicted to receive only 25% of its former water supply due to the ambitious Anatolia project being embarked on by Turkey. This project includes the building of 22 dams and 19 power plants in the southeast. Historically, Iraq once received between 60 billion to 90 billion cubic meters of water from the Tigris and Euphrates. This is expected to drop to less than 25 billion cubic meters in less than 40 years’ time.

The outdated agricultural programme which employs Sumerian Flood Irrigation methods in the basin will also deteriorate the water’s quality; filling it with pesticides and nutrients from fertilizers that render it unusable.

‘Currently, the world is pushing for building of dams to harvest water and to produce hydroelectric power in a stage when we are all worried about CO2 production. Few people are pointing to the bad consequences on biodiversity that the dams have,’ said Mr Alwash.

‘The outdated sumerian flood irrigation methods used by Syria and Turkey will deteriorate the quality of water reaching Iraq with drainage water from irrigated fields upstream being fed back into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The drainage water is not only highly saline, but is also loaded with pesticides and nutrients from fertilizers. This result of the reduced water quality is the slow death of agriculture in the land where it was developed in southern Iraq.’

For Mr Alwash the solution is simple but requires vision and cooperation between the countries that share the basin of these two great rivers.

One is to coordinate the policies of release of water from dams and the other, which is even more important according to Mr Alwash, is to improve and modernize irrigation methods to eliminate wastage of water and over use.

‘This can be done for the price of a hundred F16 and tanks that are useless in a world where cooperation is the name of the game for survival. What I advocate is for Iraq to use its wasted flared gas and energy reserves to be the manufacturer of subsidized drip irrigation pipes and drip heads that can be distributed to farmers in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.

This is not for the purpose of making more water available per se, but also to reduce salinization and loss of productivity of farming lands.

Obviously the implementation of such a plan requires trust and cooperative approach. This is not possible under the current political conditions but that does not mean we should stop.’

The Anatolia Project has already been met with widespread controversy. In 2009 the Ilisu dam lost European support from Austria, Germany and Switzerland who had initially pledged $630 million towards the $1.68 billion dam build.

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  • SummerHerald

    Oh well. It’ll give them something to argue over.

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