By John Lee.
The Iraqi President, Abdul Latif Rashid, has addressed the UN's Water Conference in New York, calling on Turkey to increase cooperation on water management.
He also called for a permanent committee to establish regional, basin-wide agreements, with a practical enforcement mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations, to ensure an adequate and fair water ration for all.
The full text of President Rashid's speech is shown below:
I wish you all a Happy Newroz.
Water is our lifeline and well-being; it is essential to social and economic development. Iraq is emerging from the ashes of war, facing an unprecedented water crisis that is worsened by the compounded effects of climate change, and neighbouring countries' water policies.
The water crisis in Iraq is already affecting livelihoods, disappearing jobs, causing displacements at an alarming rate, and posing significant threats to food security and biodiversity.
Without immediate intervention, water shortages pose significant risks to the Agri-food system, ecosystem, and social stability in Iraq.
To address Iraq's water crisis, sustainable solutions are urgently needed at local, national, and even international levels.
Within the past century, Iraq has experienced many drought episodes, but in recent years, these droughts have occurred more frequently, which is a strong indication of the negative impact of climate change.
The Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian civilisations existed on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for thousands of years.
In modern Iraq, the livelihood of millions of people depends on these rivers, which are under threat by the adverse effects of climate change and our neighbouring countries' water policies.
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are the livelihood of Iraq, while the marshlands are a vital part of the human civilisation and serve as a key aspect in supporting life in our country; they have always been the fundamental factor in maintaining ecological balance not only in Iraq but in the entire region.
In addition to the adverse effects of climate change and a significant decrease in transboundary water flow, insufficient application of modern methods of water resources management, primarily due to twelve years of international sanctions on Iraq, inadequate policies, and successive conflicts have put the country several decades behind international levels of development. Failure to take advantage of modern technologies, upgrading the irrigation systems, and modernising the agricultural sector in a timely manner has contributed to the scale of today's water crisis in Iraq.
Today, Iraq is bearing the brunt of climate change and extreme weather conditions, including regular floods, droughts, dust storms, and rising temperatures which are beyond our control.
decreased transboundary water flows in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, have created the worst water crisis in the history of modern Iraq.
Iraq's water need is expected to increase in the next decade due to population growth, economic development, and the effects of climate change, yet its primary sources of water (Tigris and Euphrates) continue to decrease.
The worsening drought has seriously threatened peoples' livelihoods and the state's economy in Iraq; it casts a shadow on the life and environment in the region, adding to the already shrinking green areas of the world.
Desertification is now threatening almost forty per cent of Iraq, a country once had the most fertile and productive lands in the region.
We urgently need wider cooperation with the water and political authorities of our neighbouring countries, particularly Turkey, and form a permanent committee including technical and legal experts to establish regional basin-wide agreements, ensure a practical enforcement mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations, including operating procedures on time and quantity to ensure that there are adequate and fair water rations for everybody.
Additionally, Iraq will invest in research programmes, focused on the impact of water in relation to the effects of drought, climate change, and transboundary flows on water quantity and quality, as well as the impact on farming communities.
The Iraqi water authorities will focus on rehabilitation, building, operating, and maintaining water pumping stations throughout the country, in addition to rehabilitating irrigation and drainage systems, using modern irrigation system techniques to improve the efficiency of water use and minimise the negative impacts of the water crisis.
The restoration of the marshlands in Iraq is paramount, including building infrastructure and rendering basic services.
The Iraqi government is addressing the whole water crisis through constructing, rehabilitating, operating, and maintaining dams, water barrages, reservoirs, and the system of water distribution including installations that use the hydraulic control system. Constructing new dams (in the Kurdistan Region as well as the southern and western parts of Iraq).
We are introducing robust measures to protect the environment, biodiversity, and relevant ecosystems, and prevent desertification through coordination with the states of the region to control this dangerous phenomenon.
To conclude, I have a few points to emphasise on
-Climate related factors such as regular droughts, dust storms, and high temperatures that have occurred in recent years are beyond our control.
-We must take necessary precautions to minimise the negative impacts, including the construction of necessary infrastructure to collect and save the maximum amount of rain and harvest rainwater.
-Arrangements must be made with our neighbouring countries through agreements and commitments to ensure a fair share of water for all, especially during the agricultural seasons.
-Iraq shall implement a rigorous water management plan to save water and reduce waste, including infrastructure improvement and introduction of modern systems of irrigation, modernising the agriculture sector, and giving serious attention to establishing an appropriate legal framework in relation to water management and waste control.
-We appeal to the United Nations to take serious action toward minimising the effects of climate change and enforce transboundary water cooperation to ensure a fair distribution of water and just distribution of water between the countries, which they share water.Thank you.
(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)
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