Water


How Water Scarcity could Destabilise the ME

Testing the water: How water scarcity could destabilise the Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa is the most water-scarce region in the world. Nearly two-thirds of the population there are living in areas that lack sufficient renewable water resources to sustain current levels of activity and growth, according to a report from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Tareq Bacconi argues that it is impossible to separate Iraq’s water security from the ongoing conflict and unrest in the country, saying that Iraq faces an extreme situation when it comes to water, one that is exacerbated by domestic tensions, regional developments, and the weight of conflicts and sanctions that began following the first Gulf War in 1990.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: ECFR)

(Picture credit: Mohammad Huzam)

Water Contamination caused Death of Fish in S. Iraq

WHO and Ministry of Health investigate the massive death of fish in southern governorates of Iraq

Laboratory tests conducted on water samples in the reference lab in Amman, Jordan on the cause of death of freshwater fish in the Euphrates River in Iraq have revealed the contamination of water with high content of coliforms, heavy metals, and high concentration of ammonia.

Health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Environment in Iraq say that while these materials are toxic to fish, they pose no health threat to humans.

Testing on dead fish has revealed serious issues that warranted WHO to conduct a second investigation related to probable viral infection of fish causing the death of thousands in the river. Results of the second test are due next week.

The laboratory investigations came in response to a request to WHO by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment to assess the likely effects of the fish death on humans and the environment.

As early as 2 November this year, thousands of tonnes of fish have died in the Euphrates River causing significant loss to fish farms and production in the southern part of Iraq especially in Babel province, 85 kilometers south of Baghdad.

WHO continues to work with its MOH counterparts to develop appropriate preventive measures to effectively mitigate and respond to future incidents of this nature.

(Source: UN)

Turkey to supply more Water to Iraq

By John Lee.

Turkey has announced that it will increase water supplies to Iraq to compensate for a drop in supply from Iran.

According to Abu Dhabi-based The National, Iran has said it will cut water supplies to Iraq to prioritise projects within Iran.

Turkey depends on water from the Tigris to fill a reservoir behind its new Ilısu dam.

This summer, Iraq’s agriculture ministry banned the growing of water-intensive crops due to shortages.

(Sources: The National, Sabah, Rudaw)

Video: Iraq close to Running Out of Water

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq is running out of water.

Its planning ministry says about 90 percent of land is now desert and the small amount of remaining farmland is shrinking by five percent each year.

Now farmers say their futures are dying with their crops.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad:

Iraq to Increase Wheat Imports

By John Lee.

Iraq is expected to significantly increase its imports of wheat, as it reportedly cuts the irrigated area it plants with wheat by half in the 2018-2019 growing season due to the continuing water shortages.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Mahdi al-Qaisi told Reuters:

“The shortage of water resources, climate change and drought are the main reasons behind this decision, our expectation is the area will shrink to half.”

The country already imports more than one million tonnes of wheat per year, with annual demand of around 4.5 to 5.0 million tonnes.

Full report here.

(Source: Reuters)

Basra Reeling from Contaminated Drinking Water

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Human rights advocates and health officials estimate that 17,000 to 18,000 residents of Basra province have been poisoned by heavily polluted and salty drinking water. On Aug. 26, hundreds of residents stormed the Basra Health Directorate to protest the poor health services provided to those made ill, but relief is not in sight.

Basra hospitals have been struggling since Aug. 12 to treat patients suffering from intestinal and skin diseases. Some hospitals have been so overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients and lack of medicines that were unable to provide assistance in thousands of cases.

According to statistics from the health directorate, Basra’s water pollution is staggering.

Click here to read the full story.

The River Where Sewage and Drinking Water Mix

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Dashty Ali.

Dealing With The Iraqi River Where Sewage And Drinking Water Mix

Every day litres of waste water and even sewage end up in the rivers and lakes, that are the main source of drinking water for one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s biggest cities.

It is as if the government was bombing Halabja with chemical weapons every day, says Salih Najib Majid, an assistant professor specializing in environmental science. “People’s lives are in danger,” says the specialist who works in the faculty of agricultural sciences at the University of Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Majid is talking about the fact that sewage from many of the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah’s neighbourhoods is dumped into the Tanjaro river, which runs south of the city. Also flowing into the river are different kinds of waste water, everything from industrial to agricultural waste.

The Tanjaro’s waters originate south of the city, from a confluence of two streams and other small tributaries near Kani Goma. There are several industrial sites in this area as well as oil refineries and many of these discharge their waste water into the river too. Pollutants like mercury, lead, cadmium and nitrates have been found in the water.

“Dumping waste in the Tanjaro area results in the creation of dangerous liquids that have more negative health impacts than even ordinary sewage,” says Nabil Musa, a 40-year-old local of Sulaymaniyah, the only Iraqi member of the international organization, the Waterkeeper’s Alliance, based in New York. The organization’s objective “is drinkable and fishable, swimmable water everywhere”.

For years, locals have observed things like mass fish deaths in places like Darbandikhan lake. “The reason for the die-off is the contaminated water,” Musa tells NIQASH.

At the same time, others in the area engaged in farming and agriculture in nearby areas are using the same water to irrigate crops and feed animals. This means that eventually the dangerous elements in the water work their way down the food chain, until they reach local people.

“The water that is used for irrigation should be assessed to make sure it meets acceptable international standards,” says Majid, the environmental scientist. “Not all water should be used for irrigation. Unfortunately,” he continues, “the local government is not paying any attention to these problems.”

The waste water continues to make its way through Iraqi Kurdistan’s waterways and Majid says that the water containing sewage eventually meets the main sources of drinking water for locals in the Darbandikhan and Kalar areas.

Rebwar Ahmad, who heads the health and environment committee on the Sulaymaniyah provincial council, says authorities are trying to do something to deal with the problem. A report has been prepared about the mixture of fresh water and sewage and it has been submitted to the concerned authorities, he says. As for the industrial waste, he concedes that his committee is constantly getting reports of pollution infringements. But they have been unable to control the factories, he says.

The regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan has made the management of waste water and sewage part of its plan for 2020. The plan also talks about negating the damage being done by landfills to local water waterways.

“One company has been given a US$400 million contract to try and solve the problems at Tanjaro and the project design has been finalized,” Masoud Kaka Rash, the head of the water and sewage department in Iraqi Kurdistan, says reassuringly. “And work on a US$20 billion drinking water refinery in Darbandikhan  has already started too – 85 percent of the work on that has been completed,” he says.

Video: Amber Rice Crop Devastated by Drought

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

In southern Iraq, fields where rice has been sown for centuries now lie bare for lack of water…. This season many farmers have not planted the treasured amber rice local to Diwaniyah province because of an unusually harsh drought.

View on YouTube

The Secret History behind Iraq’s Stalled Water Project

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Histyar Qader and Awara Hamid.

The Secret History Behind The Stalled Project To Solve Iraq’s Water Problems

Despite ever-increasing water supply problems, the construction of one of the biggest dams in Iraq remains on hold. One of the main reasons for the delay seems to be political paranoia.

It would have been the largest dam in Iraq when the project was first proposed. But over 60 years have passed since the Bekhme dam was planned and in that time, the project has seen various political regimes come and go as well as war and peace.

It would have been a major undertaking, with a final height of around 230 meters, and offered extra water supplies to the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. Recent events, where Turkey cut off the flow of the Euphrates river and levels dropped noticeably, and Iran cut off water from the Little Zab, mean that a dam like this one is more necessary than ever. But, after all this time, will it ever happen?

The Bekhme dam was first on the Iraqi government’s agenda in 1937 and a US company developed a design for the dam in 1953; that is, during Iraq’s monarchy. In 1979, a Japanese firm adapted the original designs and in 1986, two more companies, one from Turkey and the other from the former Yugoslavia, began work on that plan.

Work continued until 1991, and around a third of the required work had been done, when the whole thing came to a grinding halt, due to the second Gulf war. This is when the Iraqi government headed by Saddam Hussein withdrew from the northern area, leaving the Kurds to govern themselves.

Should the giant dam have been completed, the authorities in the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan say that it would have held between 14 and 17 billion cubic meters of water, at a  depth of 179 meters. It would have helped irrigate more than 560 hectares of agricultural land and produced electricity too.

“The three dams – Dokan, Darbandikhan and Dohuk – collect seven to eight billion cubic meters of water but the whole region needs 10 billion,” explains Akram Mohammed, the head of the regional department for dams in Iraqi Kurdistan. “There is a plan to build 250 more small and medium-sized dams but only 14 have been completed so far. If we continue at this pace, we are going to face serious water shortages soon.”

The Bekhme dam project was suspended in 1991. But it was not just  a  political problem, due to the Iraqi government pulling out of Kurdish areas.  Over time, the machinery and materials used for the dam-building “disappeared”. Locals say the goods were smuggled across the border into Iran and never returned.

After Iraqi Kurdistan’s second-ever parliament was formed, and governed between 2005 and 2009, local politicians did try to revive the project. They were unsuccessful but up until today, the MPs involved can’t explain exactly why.

Jamil Mohammed was a member of the committee that debated the subject at the time but he told NIQASH that “we did not come to any conclusions”. He couldn’t give any further information, he said.

Several problems with the Bekhme dam project have been flagged, including geographical ones, downstream issues and the destruction of Iraqi heritage, once the area has been flooded.

“The Bekhme dam issue was only discussed once during that administration,” says Abdulrahman Ali, who is on the agriculture and irrigation committee in the Kurdish parliament and a senior member of the opposition Change movement. “I followed up on this issue personally but the response was that this was a political issue. That’s why it remains unresolved up until now.”

The nature of those problems is a little more difficult to trace back. Money was not the issue apparently. In 2005, as the Iraqi Kurdish authorities resumed contact with the Iraqi government, Baghdad promised to put US$5 billion into the dam’s completion.

“During the al-Maliki government, we followed up on the amount of money for the project and we note that the Iraqi ministry of water resources did discuss the issue with authorities from the Kurdish region,” says Mahmoud Raza, an MP in Baghdad. “The plan for the dam changed several times. But the Kurdish authorities wouldn’t agree to it being built.”

Apparently the problem was the level of water in the dam and its size. There was concern about how much water the dam would collect and whether this would block the flow of water into the rest of Iraq.

Alternative plans were suggested by the Kurdish authorities but these were not viable, Zafer Abdullah, an adviser to Iraq’s ministry of water resources, told NIQASH. “Other plans involved reducing the water level in the dam and the size of the reservoir,” he said. “At that time, the Kurdish presidency was against the dam being constructed and some said there were political reasons behind this.”

At the start nobody had any problem with the dam being built. But later on the issue was politicized – when it was suggested that the Barzan area be submerged.

“It was the Kurdish leadership who would not accept the construction of the dam, despite the fact that the Iraqi government gave them three alternative designs for the project,” Mohammed, head of the regional department for dams in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirms.

Over the course of two weeks researching this story, NIQASH tried to contact the Kurdish government’s spokesperson, Safeen Dizayee, several times to ask why but had no response.

A large part of the “political” reason behind the lack of progress on the Bekhme dam also has to do with the fact that around 54 villages in the area would be submerged, says Karwan Karim Khan, mayor of Khalifan, where the Bekhme dam would be located.

Some of these villages are located in the Barzan area, the historic home to the Barzani tribe, from which one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling families originates. The Barzanis head one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most popular political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, and until he stepped down recently, Massoud Barzani was president of Iraqi Kurdistan.

At one stage a petition was launched, collecting signatures of those opposed to the destruction of these villages due to the dam, and Kurdish authorities used this to justify the ongoing suspension of the project.

“We signed the petition because the Bekhme dam could cause many problems – one of which is that we would be forced to leave our homes,” says Hasso Mohammed Amin, a 52-year-old resident of one of the villages that could end up submerged, Dola Teshwu. “ We wanted the project suspended or its size reduced,” he notes.

The nature of those problems is a little more difficult to trace back. Money was not the issue apparently. In 2005, as the Iraqi Kurdish authorities resumed contact with the Iraqi government, Baghdad promised to put US$5 billion into the dam’s completion.

“During the al-Maliki government, we followed up on the amount of money for the project and we note that the Iraqi ministry of water resources did discuss the issue with authorities from the Kurdish region,” says Mahmoud Raza, an MP in Baghdad. “The plan for the dam changed several times. But the Kurdish authorities wouldn’t agree to it being built.”

Apparently the problem was the level of water in the dam and its size. There was concern about how much water the dam would collect and whether this would block the flow of water into the rest of Iraq.

Alternative plans were suggested by the Kurdish authorities but these were not viable, Zafer Abdullah, an adviser to Iraq’s ministry of water resources, told NIQASH. “Other plans involved reducing the water level in the dam and the size of the reservoir,” he said. “At that time, the Kurdish presidency was against the dam being constructed and some said there were political reasons behind this.”

“It was the Kurdish leadership who would not accept the construction of the dam, despite the fact that the Iraqi government gave them three alternative designs for the project,” Mohammed, head of the regional department for dams in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirms.

Over the course of two weeks researching this story, NIQASH tried to contact the Kurdish government’s spokesperson, Safeen Dizayee, several times to ask why but had no response.

A large part of the “political” reason behind the lack of progress on the Bekhme dam also has to do with the fact that around 54 villages in the area would be submerged, says Karwan Karim Khan, mayor of Khalifan, where the Bekhme dam would be located.

Some of these villages are located in the Barzan area, the historic home to the Barzani tribe, from which one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling families originates. The Barzanis head one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s most popular political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, and until he stepped down recently, Massoud Barzani was president of Iraqi Kurdistan.

At one stage a petition was launched, collecting signatures of those opposed to the destruction of these villages due to the dam, and Kurdish authorities used this to justify the ongoing suspension of the project.

“We signed the petition because the Bekhme dam could cause many problems – one of which is that we would be forced to leave our homes,” says Hasso Mohammed Amin, a 52-year-old resident of one of the villages that could end up submerged, Dola Teshwu. “ We wanted the project suspended or its size reduced,” he notes.

“At the start nobody had any problem with the dam being built,” Abbas Ghazali Mirkhan, an MP with the KDP and also a resident from the area where the dam is meant to be being built, told NIQASH. “But later on the issue was politicized – when it was suggested that the Barzan area be submerged and the Barzan villagers be displaced.”

“When the budget was first allocated for the dam project in 2005 and the plan designed by foreign advisers, Massoud Barzani had no problem with it,” Mirkhan continued. “But when it turned out there were political motivations behind the project, Barzani and the local population collected signatures for a petition against it and the project was suspended.”

And by this, he means that the Barzanis clearly felt that the dam was a personal attack on their heritage, possibly a politically motivated one by Baghdad.

Whatever the reason back then, work on the Bekhme dam seems unlikely to resume any time soon, no matter how much its needed. The Iraqi government has basically given up on it now, insiders say.

“There’s no hope in reviving those talks with the Kurdish authorities about the Bekhme dam,” Abdullah, the ministry of water resources adviser, concludes. “We are now relying on the Tharthar dam [further south] to secure our water supply.”