Can Iraq, Turkey agree to Protect Marshes?

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

Can Iraq reach dam agreement with Turkey to protect marshes?

Severe drought is affecting agricultural lands across Iraq because of the low levels of river water. Iraqi officials have raised the alarm on the negative impact of the Turkish Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016.

Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Hassan al-Janabi and other politicians have been vocal on this matter. In a Sept. 17 media statement, Janabi said, “Iraq will be teetering on the edge of a disaster when the new dam starts operating. The Iraqi government hopes to reach a satisfactory solution with the Turkish government in this regard.”

Rasul al-Tai, a parliamentarian for the al-Ahrar bloc, requested the government in a media statement Sept. 25 to “exercise the necessary economic leverage on Turkey to stop the dam construction and take the necessary measures to activate water agreements with Turkey.”

Such agreements are of paramount importance given the fact that the headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris are controlled by Turkey and Iran.

In the same vein, parliamentarian Aziz al-Ugaili also sounded the alarm on the Ilisu Dam in a media statement Sept. 24. “The Turkish dam will affect the sustainability of the Iraqi marshlands, which were inscribed on the World Heritage list on July 17, 2016,” Ugaili said.

Of note, Turkey has cut off water on more than one occasion in the past, and it caused a major humanitarian crisis every time, prompting dozens of families to flee their residences in the Ramadi area in Anbar province, where the Euphrates River flows.

In further evidence of Ugaili’s statements, Furat al-Tamimi, the head of the parliamentary Water and Agriculture Committee, told Al-Monitor, “Turkey will escalate its systematic water ban into Iraqi territories, which would take a heavy toll on agriculture, following the completion of the dam’s final stages.”

He added, “Iraq has been objecting to the dam project, but to no avail. Upon completion, Iraq will lose about 50% of the Tigris River.”

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