Aid & Development

Rains avert water crisis in Iraq … but for how long?


Rainstorms over the past three days have eased the fears of water shortage in Iraq. But concerns over long-term supply remain.

BAGHDAD: A deluge of rain storms have reduced the risk of a drought in Iraq this summer but done little to allay concerns over the long term supply of water to the country.

Iraq warned in October that it was heading toward a major shortage due to the lack of water being released into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers from countries upstream.

But heavy rain across the country in the last three days has “limited” the risks of the expected water crisis, Iraqi members of Parliament told Arab News on Sunday.

Iraq depends completely on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to secure its drinking water and agriculture needs.

Water releases from countries upstream in both rivers have declined since the 1970s, when Iran, Turkey and Syria ignored international agreements and built many dams and projects on both rivers, reducing the amount of water flowing into Iraq.

With the downpours expected to continue until mid week, Iraq’s water reserves have been strengthened and reservoirs replenished.

The water flowing from Iran into the Tigris has been described as “the largest” in five years and has also contributed to the revival of small rivers and marshes in southern Iraq, many of which dried up in the last few months.

Iraq blames Iran for changing the course of the Karun and Karakha rivers that used flow into the Tigris.

“The rain has boosted Iraq’s water revenues and contributed to the achievement of the second irrigation (for crops) and eased fears of the drought crisis expected in the summer,” Forat Al-Timaimi, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture and Irrigation, told Arab News.

“More rains are expected but this is not a strategic solution for the water shortage crisis. We need to create several strategic solutions to fix this problem,” Timaimi, said.

Minister of Water Resources Hassan Al-Janabi told the Iraqi Parliament in a special session on Sunday devoted to the water crisis that Iraq needs 50 billion cubic meters per year.

He said the the water shortage had engulfed the country since September, “but this scarcity has become less severe with the recent rain”. Turkey’s agreement last month to delay filling of the Elizeo dam until March, had also helped, Iraqi officials said.

“There is a significant progress between us and the Turkish side on Iraq’s share of water … We convinced the Turkish government to postpone the construction of dams for the next period in order to obtain an international agreement for water security,” Al-Janabi, said.

The Iraqi Parliament ordered the government to intensify negotiations with the Turkish and Iranian sides to find long-term solutions.

“Iran and Turkey do not abide by the joint agreements, we are currently in a water war,” Abdulkareem Abtan, an Iraqi lawmaker told Arab News.

“We do not want to escalate the situation with the two countries, but we say that we have joint interests that we can rely on.”
Abtan said the water security situation for Iraq in the long term remains full of risk.

“We have to move on and put more pressures on these countries. They have to consider the situation in Iraq and we have to consider that we have been exporting (goods worth) billions of dollars every year.”

Among the areas most effected are Diyala province near the the Iran borders.

In addition, seven valleys near the border filled with water.

Local officials said that the situation was under control and there is no fear that any populated areas will be affected.

Article: Arab News

Image: AP/File