Iraq’s new war is a fight for water
BAGDHAD. Dam projects by neighbouring states are drastically reducing the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates and helping to turn a once-f...
BAGDHAD. Dam projects by neighbouring states are drastically reducing the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates and helping to turn a once-fertile plain into desert.
As bombs continue to tear apart its towns and villages, Iraq is now in the grip of an environmental crisis that experts and officials warn may do what decades of war have not been able to – destroy the country.
The new war on Iraq, says one member of the country’s parliament, “is a war of water”.
Today, however, those same rivers are increasingly starved of water. The floodplains on either side of the Euphrates and Tigris, Iraq’s old fertile agricultu ral heartlands, are parched.
Iraq’s devastating water shortages have three main causes: upstream dams in Turkey and Syria have drastically reduced the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates; rainfall levels have hit record lows; and inefficient management techniques mean Iraq wastes what limited water it does have.
According to Iraqi government figures, water flow in the Euphrates is currently some 200 cubic meters per second as it crosses into Iraq, less than half of the minimum amount required to help the country meet its basic needs
Much of the water is stopped in Turkey, while Syria, battling its own water crisis, is also drawing on supplies. Iraq, downstream of both, pays the price for their consumption. Similar problems face the Tigris and will be greatly exacerbated if Turkey pushes ahead with its controversial $2 billion Ilisu dam project.
There are even suggestions that water shortages could trigger a new international conflict between Iraq and its neighbors. Allegations are increasingly being made, in particular against Turkey and Iran, that water has become a weapon to keep Iraq on its knees.