Iraq calls on Turkey to release more water into the Tigris River

Water shortages grip Iraq
Iraqi delegation headed by Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi meets with a Turkish delegation led by Parliament Speaker Binali Yildirim on the sideline of the Third Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ parliaments in Antalya, October 9, 2018. Photo/Iraqi Parliament

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SULAIMANI — Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi called on Turkey to release more water into the Tigris River basin, as water shortages grip Iraq.

Halbusi met with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim on the sidelines of Third Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments in Antalya on Tuesday (October 9), the Iraqi parliament said in a statement.

The two sides discussed bilateral relations, trade, and the political and security situation in the region, as well as the water issue.

Halbusi called on Turkish authorities to increase the flow of water into the Tigris River and to contribute positively to resolving the issue.

“…We hope for a fair solution to this issue in accordance with the principles of international law,” the statement quoted Halbusi as saying.

Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources originate in neighboring countries. Both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers have their headwaters in Turkey.

The Ilisu dam, one of 22 dams in the Southeastern Anatolia Project, is located on the Tigris River near the village of Ilisu and along the border between the provinces of Mardin and Sirnak, near the Iraqi-Syrian-Turkish border, and will have a storage capacity of 10.4 billion cubic meters.

Turkey briefly started filling the dam in June, but officials said it temporarily halted the process a week later after complaints from Iraq about reduced water flows in summer.

As for the dangers of the dam, observers believe that "the Ilısu Dam, planned to be build since the 1950s will reduce the amount of water flowing to Iraq by up to 50 percent."

According to media reports, the decline in the flow of water has already had an impact on agriculture in Iraq, where the area of land planted during the last season fell by half.

Geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor  stated, in a report entitled “Iraq's Water Crisis Gives the Public One More Reason to Protest,” that water shortages and its effects would create significant unrest in Iraq, a preview of which has been on display in the southern provinces over the past ten days.

In Turkey itself, the dam's construction has proved controversial, drawing criticisms from local residents, environmentalists, and archaeologists.

Filling the reservoir is expected to displace hundreds of people and to destroy valuable cultural heritage.

(NRT Digital Media)