Turkey filling ‘ilısu Dam’ reservoir causes fears of water scarcity in Iraq
Iraq is about to face a water crisis, which may threaten national security and agriculture in the first agricultural nation in history.
During the past few days, Turkey started filling the reservoir of “ilısu Dam”, causing a sudden decrease in the water level in Mosul, Salahuddin, and the Iraqi capital Baghdad. A video circulated on social media showing people walking across the Tigris River in Baghdad for the first time.
The decrease of water in the Tigris River raised fears among many Iraqis that drought could affect their farms and agriculture.
The Tigris River is the second largest river in Western Asia. Its basin is shared by four countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The river receives its water from tributaries that rise in the Zagros Mountains in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, in addition to contributions from precipitation that originates in the Armenian Highlands.
On Saturday, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Hassan Al-Janabi said there are no fears of a lower level of water flow in the Tigris River. He added in a press conference that the level of water in most areas of Iraq decreased because of “natural scarcity of water” due to insufficient snow cover and rain.
According to Al-Janabi, further discussions are needed with neighbouring countries. Trying to relieve the people, the minister said that Iraq has enough drinking water and enough water for irrigation for hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of land.
The ‘ilısu Dam’ was built in 2006 on the Tigris River near the village of ‘ilisu’ as part of the South-eastern Anatolian Project (GAP) and is currently the largest hydropower project in Turkey. It is located on the Tigris River. According to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the dam will create a reservoir with a maximum volume of 10.4bn cubic metres and a surface area of 313 sqkm. The ‘ilısu’ power station will have a capacity of 1,200 MW and is expected to produce 3,800 GWh of power per year.
Al-Janabi further said that his country has an agreement with Turkey regarding the amount of water for the dam’s reservoir and the quantity to be launched, adding that an Iraqi delegation would visit Turkey soon to discuss the matter with Turkish officials.
Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Fatih Yildiz, said that his country started filling the reservoir after consultations with the Iraqi side, and hosted an Iraqi technical delegation to check the dam. He stressed that his country would not take any step without consulting Iraq, as Turkey believes that Tigris–Euphrates waters are mutual waters.