Water


Multi-Billion Dollars Needed to Keep Water Flowing

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 Ibrahim Saleh.

Multi-Billion Dollar Budget Needed To Keep Iraq’s Water Flowing

In Baghdad, locals have been fretting about dramatic falls in the level of the Tigris river. The government has a plan. Only problem is, that plan requires billions in funding that Iraq does not have.

The passengers in the small bus all peer out anxiously as the vehicle crosses the Sanak bridge – the name used by locals for the Rashid bridge which spans the Tigris river in the middle of Baghdad. They’re not worried about the bridge though, they’re worried about the water levels.

“It’s actually very low,” one passenger says to another.

“We should expect that,” his travelling companion replies, “they are trying to drain the water – and the life – out of Iraq.”

Salah al-Jibouri is the 47-year old driver of the minibus. The passengers call him Uncle Salah. And he’s been driving this route for years. At the beginning of every Iraqi summer, he always hears these same conversations about the amount of water in the Tigris river. But this time, he says resignedly, it’s more serious and people are really worried.

Possibly with good reason. At the time the bus is crossing the bridge, it had only been 24 hours since the Turkish government announced that they had started filling their huge Ilisu Dam to the north. Critics have been talking about the damage that stopping the flow of water in Turkey will do to Iraq for years – but now the problem is clear for all to see, as the Tigris river levels have fallen away dramatically.

Locals could talk about little else. Some Iraqis posted pictures of residents who had been able to walk across the river, which usually requires a boat or a bridge to get over. They were also upset with their own government, which seemed to be confused as to what exactly was going on.

Turkish authorities quickly moved to calm the situation with the Turkish ambassador to Iraq saying that it would take nearly a  year to fill the Ilisu dam’s reservoir and the Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan announcing that the filling of the dam had been postponed.

The Iraqi minister for water resources, Hassan al-Janabi, said that the two countries had agreed upon a way for Turkey to fill the dam more slowly, and without stopping as much water flowing into Iraq.

But the problem is far from resolved. Baghdad locals used to worry about flooding in the city during the wetter months. But now, floods are the last thing they need fear. Instead it is the dams being built by neighbouring countries – including Turkey, Iran and Syria – as well as climate change, that are reducing the water flow into their city.

Over two-thirds of Iraq’s water comes from tributaries it shares with neighbouring countries.

“After these dams were built, Iraq’s share of water decreased by more than 45 percent,” says Zafer Abdullah, a consultant for Iraq’s ministry of water resources.

Iraq has agreements with its neighbours about water flow and how much water the different nations need to share. But some of the treaties are not being adhered to, with, for example, the Iranian government reporting that it cannot stick to a previous deal because climate change has decreased the amount of water to be shared.

The solution would not be to build more dams, the Iraqi ministry of water resources, has stated. Iraq’s own dams are underutilized and would store billions more cubic litres, if they could.

The Iraqi authorities say they have a strategy to see them through until 2035, that would provide water for things like drinking and agriculture. It takes into account the decreased amount of water due to climate change as well as the potential for neighbouring countries to keep blocking or diverting rivers.

However, as al-Janabi says, for the plan to work, it requires 24 “urgent and essential” points to be resolved, at the cost of up to US$3 billion. And that is extra funding the Iraqi national budget cannot afford right now.

(Picture credit: Mohammad Huzam)

Water Shortages: Iraq Bans planting of Rice, Corn

By John Lee.

Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources has reportedly banned farmers from planting rice and corn, due to increasing shortages in the country.

According to Reuters, Minister Hassan al-Janabi (pictured) has decided to prioritise drinking water, industry and the growing of vegetables.

The Agriculture Ministry is said to be embarrassed about the decision, especially as rice and corn are considered strategic and farmers had already prepared to plant them.

(Source: Reuters)

Turkish Dam causes Water Shortage in Iraq

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Council for National Security (pictured) on Sunday, focusing on the water shortage in Iraq.

The Council viewed a presentation by the Minister of Water Resources, Hassan Al Janabi, which included a plan to address the expected water scarcity for the current summer.

The problem has been exacerbated by the filling of the Ilısu Dam in Turkey, and the recent irregular rainfall.

According to a report from The National, water levels in Iraq’s main rivers have fallen by at least 40 percent in recent decades.

(Sources: Media Office of the Prime Minister, The National)

Safe Drinking Water for 33,000 in Erbil Governorate

Access to safe drinking water is ensured for over 33,000 people in the Governorate of Erbil

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Erbil Governorate completed the rehabilitation of the main water treatment plant in Rawanduz sub-district, which provided safe drinking water to over 33,000 people, including 2,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

With support from the Government of Germany, UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) and Erbil Governorate upgraded key components of the treatment plant, including construction of a pumping station, main transmission pipeline and water treatment unit.

The upgrade of the water treatment plant will help alleviate chronic shortages, ensure adequate supply of clean water and improve health conditions for the local population.

At a ceremony marking the completion of the project, the Minister of Municipalities and Tourism (MOMAT) for the Kurdistan Regional Government, H.E. Mrs.  Newroz Mawlood Amin, said:

“I feel very lucky to be here today to open the Bekhal-Rawanduz water plant. The project is delivering potable water in line with international standards, benefiting people living in Rawanduz district and surrounding villages.”

The Governor of Erbil, H.E Mr. Nawzad Hadi, said:

“This project has addressed a surge in demand for basic services caused by the influx of IDPs in many villages. We thank the residents of Rawanduz for their generosity in welcoming IDPs and we praise both host communities and IDPs for living peacefully in this area.”

The Mayor of Rawanduz, Mrs. Kwestan Qadir, added:

“Because of the poor quality of water, local communities, especially children, were suffering from waterborne diseases. This project will increase the supply of drinking water to households from 1.5 hours over two days to 24 hours a day/seven days a week. This is a remarkable achievement. We are confident that the improved access to safe water will prevent potential future outbreaks of water-related diseases.”

UNDP’s Programme Manager for ICRRP, Mr. Ashley Carl, noted:

“One of the first steps to recovery after a crisis is ensuring people have access to basic services. ICRRP is strengthening access to basic services and improving the life of vulnerable communities throughout Iraq. With donor support ICRRP has launched more than 30 new infrastructure projects across the country. We are glad to have contributed to such an important project focused on supporting local authorities in meeting the increased demands for essential services to at risk communities.”

UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) promotes the recovery and resilience of communities vulnerable to multi-dimensional shocks associated with large-scale returns and protracted displacement of Iraqis and Syrian refugees.

This is achieved through a medium-term, 24-36 month period of programming integrating crisis management capacity building, rehabilitating basic service infrastructure, livelihood recovery and social cohesion.

(Source: UNDP)

Iraq’s Mosul Dam Lake Shrinking

The reservoir impounded by Iraq’s Mosul Dam has shrunk 60 percent in surface area from the late 1990s to present day, according to a report from the World Resources Institute (WRI):

There are several factors behind this trend, including poor water resource management by the Iraqi government and intense regional droughts. But it’s Turkey’s Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP) and its 22 dams and 19 hydropower plants across the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that many sources cite as a key driver behind the reduced river flow into Iraq. The non-profit EPIC says that “according to Iraqi government projections, the GAP has reduced river flow into Iraq by 80 percent to date.”

Millions of Iraqis rely on the Tigris and Euphrates for drinking water, irrigation, power and transportation. Furthermore, water shortages are thought to be behind large increases in desertification in parts of south and central Iraq. And Iraq’s water stress, an indicator of competition for water among users, is set to increase due to growing populations and climate change. It’s likely that struggles surrounding water shortages will continue in this arid nation.

More from WRI here.

(Source: WRI)

Biwater, Wood Partnership to Improve Iraq’s Water Infrastructure

A strategic partnership has been established between Biwater and Wood to work together in Iraq to address acute water shortages, beginning with the supply of water to the Basrah region.

This important agreement between two leading UK infrastructure firms, demonstrates the scale of international interest and support in Iraq’s extensive infrastructure reconstruction efforts, and follows the signing of a MoU between the Government of Iraq and UK Export Finance (UKEF) in March 2017, to underwrite GBP £10 billion of infrastructure projects in Iraq over the next 10 years.

Commenting on the partnership, Biwater’s Chairman, Sir Adrian White (pictured), said:

I am delighted with this new partnership, which is another significant step forward in delivering our respective ambitions within the water industry.

“Biwater’s focus will be to work with Wood – applying the vast knowledge and expertise of both companies – to deliver on the immediate requirements for Iraq’s water infrastructure, especially that required by the Basrah Governorate.”

Bob MacDonald, CEO of Wood’s Specialist Technical Solutions business, said:

We are proud to be offering our diverse capabilities and broad, innovative solutions to support a partnership that offers our continuing support to the redevelopment of Iraq as well as making a difference to millions of people.

“Our focus will be on providing safe and reliable water distribution systems to the Iraqi population. We look forward to working in partnership with Biwater, which is another significant step towards broadening our portfolio.”

(Source: Biwater)

Dangerously Dirty Water threatens Iraq

From UN Environment.

How dangerously dirty water is threatening one of the world’s ancient religions

On an unseasonably warm winter afternoon in Baghdad, Sheikh Anmar Ayid hitches up his robe and crouches by the Tigris river. Rocking back and forth on his haunches, he flicks the water from side to side – all the while chanting rhythmically in Aramaic. After finishing his ablutions, a two-minute procedure, the young sheikh turns to a small mud-brick temple and begins to pray.

In past years, Ayid might then have quenched his thirst directly from the river. As a Mandaean priest, an adherent of a pre-Abrahamic faith that’s native to the Fertile Crescent, he and his co-religionists believe the Tigris – and the Euphrates – are sacred and flow from heaven. Clerics are consequently only supposed to drink from and eat food washed in their waters.

That, however, is scarcely even possible these days. Dirtied and drained almost from the moment they rise, Iraq’s great waterways are in bleak states by the time they reach the country’s heavily urbanized centre. To drink straight from them is to invite near instant sickness. And so as the rivers plumb desperate new lows, seemingly worsening by the year, the Mandaeans are struggling to practice their several thousand-year-old rituals.

“We depend on the water for everything, for worship, for daily life, for food,” Ayid said. “But because the water is going from bad to very bad, we are negatively affected.”

Across the world, water pollution is leaving a devastating trail in its wake. Eighty per cent of all wastewater goes untreated, and much of finds its way back into rivers and lakes – where it contributes to ecosystem and public health crises.

Up to a third of all rivers are blighted with pathogenic waste, according to UN Environment data, and a seventh suffer from organic waste problems, mostly from agricultural fertilizer run off. In largely desert countries, like Iraq, worsening sandstorms and diminishing grass cover have caked the rivers with dust and saddled water treatment facilities with a new range of woes.

Never before, though, it seems, has poor water quality imperiled an entire religion. Already threatened by jihadists and criminal gangs, who damn them as heretics and target them for their historic role in the gold trade, the Mandaeans’ numbers have fallen from 100,000 to less than 10,000 in Iraq since 2003. For those who remain, pollution’s assault on one of the central tenets of their faith has added final insult to injury.

In Amarah, 350 km south of Baghdad on the Tigris, the pollution is so debilitating that not even boiling water is enough to prevent local priests from falling ill. At their heavily-guarded riverside temple in the Iraqi capital, Ayid and his colleagues have taken to leaving buckets of water to sit for a day, before skimming off the layer of fetid scum that’s usually accumulated on the top.

From Baghdad to the Mandaeans’ traditional heartlands in the country’s far south, there’s so much glass and trash in the shallows that few worshippers dare set foot in the rivers without wearing sandals.“Our religion believes human nature requires hygiene, and so for us many things are built around water,” Ayid said. “But where is the hygiene here?”

What makes this all the more frustrating for many Mandaeans is that the culprits are hiding in plain sight. With insufficient wastewater treatment facilities and lax environmental regulations, ever-growing volumes of industrial and domestic refuse are seeping into the rivers.

In Baghdad alone, dozens of places, including the Dora oil refinery and the massive Medical City hospital complex, discharge waste directly into the Tigris, according to local conservationists. All this at the same time as upstream dam construction and reduced rainfall cut the rivers’ flow has brought the lifeblood of the Mandaeans faith to the brink of disaster.

“When water levels drop, the health of that lake or river is likely to be affected, both in terms of quantity and quality,” says Lis Mullin Bernhardt, a Programme Officer in UN Environment’s Freshwater Unit. “And the lower the flow, the less likely that water body is to be able to deal naturally with water pollution and contamination.”

Globally, there is an increasing awareness that something drastic has to be done. UN Environment operates a monitoring system, GEMS/Water, which keeps tabs on river and lake water quality, and also helps states establish their own water quality surveillance networks. “For me, it’s like going to the doctor,” Bernhardt says.

“You need that monitoring, those stats and numbers, to understand what’s happening and know a bit more about what you can do about it.” By encouraging the planting of water grasses and the preservation of wetlands, for example, UN Environment is pushing for green solutions to water quality problems.

But for the Mandaeans, the fear is that no manner of solutions might arrive fast enough to save their rituals – and perhaps their very existence. Scattered now across Europe, North America and Australia, they question whether a community as small as theirs can endure in diaspora. That a people whose faith teaches care for the environment might die in part because of it is a tragic irony not lost on Sheikh Ayid.

“Above all, we respect the water, of course. But we respect the Earth and the animals too. It is forbidden, for example, to play with a living tree, to slaughter an animal unless it is needed, or to throw things into the river,” he said. “Our daily life depends on nature, but nature is not being kind to us.”

Learn more about UN Environment’s work on freshwater ecosystems

(Source: UN Environment)

Iraq’s Lack of Water “is a Foreign Policy Problem”

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 Mustafa Habib.

Iraq’s Lack Of Water Is A Foreign Policy Problem, Ministers Say

Once it was the extremists who held Iraq’s water to ransom. Now it is tribes in Iraq’s southern provinces using water supplies as a deadly weapon.

Last Sunday there was a heated debate in the Iraqi parliament. It was not about the extremist group known as the Islamic State, local militias, the US’ or Iran’s presence in Iraq, corruption or any of the other standard controversies that get MPs yelling at one another. Instead the debate was about water.

The country’s minister for water resources, Hassan al-Janabi, warned that Iraq was about to face a water shortage and that the government urgently needed to make the topic one of foreign policy relevance as well as a domestic issue.

An official report prepared by al-Janabi’s ministry was submitted to parliament and NIQASH was able to read it. It said that Iraq had lost around 30 percent of the water it used to get from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the two major waterways running through Iraq. Within just a few years, it will have lost 50 percent of its share of the rivers’ waters. And that is without taking into account the impact of climate change.

The ministry of water resources said it would begin working on a long-term plan, working toward 2035, which would require an investment of US$184 billion. Of that, US$68 billion would be allocated to water for irrigation and used for agricultural purposes. Over three-quarters of water in Iraq is used for agriculture, industry and for drinking.

Iraq has always been proud of its two major rivers. And up until relatively recently the country had been spared the kinds of devastating droughts that have hurt countries elsewhere. Baghdad residents still remember the floods of the 1950s that used to hit the country every summer until a newly built suburban dam ended them.

But the situation is very different today. A major part of the current problem lies outside the country’s borders. The sources of the Euphrates and the Tigris, as well as long stretches of the rivers, lie outside Iraq. Turkey, Syria and Iran control parts of the rivers and are already building, or have built, large dams to ensure that their countries have enough water in the future.

Iraq, on the other hand, does not currently have the resources to start on such huge strategic projects. The Iraqi government’s abilities are limited to the maintenance of existing dams, mostly built during the Saddam Hussein regime. The most important of these are the Mosul and Haditha dams. Since an earthquake last year, the Dokan dam in northern Iraq has been out of service.

Agriculture is being impacted already. “This year we lost about 30 percent of our wheat and barley crops because of water scarcity, drought and low rainfall,” says Mahdi al-Qaisi, the deputy minister for agriculture in Iraq. “That’s something we haven’t seen in decades and we have to reconsider how we irrigate in the country. We need to switch to crops that don’t require large quantities of water,” he argued.

“We have been making a living from growing wheat and barley for decades,” says Karim al-Hajami, a tribal leader in the Maysan province. “But this year we suffered great losses due to a lack of water. That’s because the waters of the Tigris river were stolen by people in the Wasit province,” he complains. “And the state knows nothing about it.”

What is happening outside Iraq is now also happening inside the country, as provincial councils in southern Iraq fight to divert river water to their provinces or to somehow block the flow further down river. There are also fears that eventually the lack of water will lead to mass internal migration, as people living in drought-stricken areas rush to areas with more water.

“Tribes in Wasit are taking more than they should, according to guidelines from the ministry of water resources,” al-Hajami continues. “And that’s why we don’t get enough water.”

In fact, a few weeks ago there were physical confrontations between different tribes over water. “They would have become serious if it were not for the intervention of government authorities who promised they would try and solve the problem,” al-Hajami says.

However, the farmers in Wasit say that it’s not their fault and that locals even further up river than them are the ones taking all the water which is why they, in turn, have to take more than they are supposed to from the Tigris river.

“The people in Maysan accuse us of taking more than our share but in reality, we are not getting our full share because of a problem with the Tigris river and the low level of water coming in from Turkey,” suggests Abbas al-Maksousi, one of the tribal leaders there.

The same sorts of problems are coming up in the provinces of Dhi Qar and Muthanna too, where fighting erupted between tribes last month because of anxiety over water from the Euphrates.

MP Furat al-Tamimi, who heads the parliamentary committee on water and agriculture, warns that this situation is just going to worsen in coming months. “The problem is complex,” al-Tamimi told NIQASH. “Firstly, the sources of the Euphrates and the Tigris are in neighbouring countries. Turkey in particular is trying to fill its Ilisu Dam project. And secondly its complicated because of abuses in Iraq’s own southern provinces.”

In the provinces, al-Tamimi thinks the ministries of the interior and water resources need to work together to prevent those abuses. “Or we will see more dangerous conflicts in the future,’ he suggests.

Al-Tamimi also believes that Iraq’s water should become a part of other ministerial portfolios because it overlaps the trade, energy, oil and foreign policy sectors. In particular, he believes there is special urgency for the ministry of foreign affairs to get involved.

Iraq Delegation to Visit Turkey over Water Dispute

By John Lee.

An Iraqi government delegation is planning to visit Turkey to discuss environmental concerns over Turkey’s Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River.

Iraqi Water Resources Minister Hassan al-Janabi (pictured) recently commented:

“All regions of Iraq face the danger of water scarcity.”

The amount of water in key Iraqi rivers has reportedly fallen by at least 40 percent in recent decades due to erratic rainfall, and the construction of dams in neighbouring countries.

The Ministry of Water Resources has stressed that Iraq is “keen to maintain cooperation with neighbouring countries, including Turkey, in order to achieve mutual benefit for all the riparian countries on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers through fair and reasonable use and based on the principle of avoiding harm to any party.”

(Sources: Al Manar)

$210m Project to Improve Baghdad Water

Iraq: 5 Million Residents in Baghdad to Benefit from Improved Water Supply and Wastewater Services

A US$210 million World Bank project will improve the quality of drinking water supply and wastewater services to 5 million residents in Baghdad who suffer from water shortages and the outbreak of waterborne diseases due to inadequate infrastructure, rapid population growth, and the inflow of internally displaced people.

The Baghdad Water Supply and Sewerage Improvement Project, approved today by the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors will support the Mayoralty of Baghdad and the Baghdad Water and Sewerage Authorities through improvement in utility management, and generate employment during the construction, operation and maintenance stages of implementation.

The project will also help reduce the incidence of water-borne diseases and improve the quality of life, health, and sanitation.

The recently completed National Water and Land Strategy (2015-2035) indicates that Baghdad will need substantial investments in its water supply and wastewater treatment systems over the next 20 years. Given limited availability of public funding, attracting commercial finance will be critical for implementing this ambitious strategy”, said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “In close coordination with the International Finance Corporation, this project will focus on creating a more favorable business environment, and on supporting the preparation of feasibility studies and transactions to enable private sector participation in the water sector.

The residents of Baghdad deal with daily water service interruptions, especially during the hot summer months. Baghdad is one of the governorates impacted by outbreaks of waterborne diseases. Leakage from sewer pipes contaminates potable water networks and groundwater aquifers, which aggravates health and environmental problems. Contaminated water supply and improper disposal of sewage force families to spend a significant fraction of their income on medical treatment and to purchase bottled water.

Water supply and sanitation have immediate and major impacts on the quality of life of citizens”, said Thikra Alwash, Mayor of Baghdad. “We are committed to improving public services for the residents of Baghdad and to alleviating the burden households face on a daily basis in getting clean and reliable water supply. We are confident that improved access to these services can significantly strengthen people’s trust and confidence in the state and contribute to building social cohesion when it is most needed”.

Major cities like Baghdad face a growing population but have inadequate water infrastructure and service delivery capacity”, said Abdulhamid Azad, Lead Water Resources Specialist and Project Team Leader. This project will improve the city’s water and sanitations services as well as support the Baghdad Water and Sewerage Authorities in improving their institutional knowledge and preparedness in relation to water security and urban water management. Also, the project will finance capacity-building activities targeted to female technical and managerial staff to increase their professional skills and allow for career advancement within the Water and Sewerage Authorities.”

The project will finance the construction of a service reservoir with a total capacity of 135,000 cubic meters, which will help the city manage its water supply better in case of climate-induced droughts. The project will also rehabilitate existing sewerage pumping stations thus reducing the public health effects of untreated wastewater discharged into the Tigris. The project will contribute to the reduction of physical losses by replacing about 130 km of water supply distribution network and the creation of district metering areas.

(Source: World Bank)