Last Updated: Wed Jul 18, 2012 14:11 pm (KSA) 11:11 am (GMT)

Iran drying up Iraqi rivers, triggering environmental crisis: report

Iran has also diverted several tributaries of the Tigris River. (Reuters)
Iran has also diverted several tributaries of the Tigris River. (Reuters)

The UK-based International Centre of Development Studies (ICD) warned of an environmental catastrophe that might hit the eastern and southern provinces of Iraq if Iran keeps on tampering with Iraq’s share of rivers that run through both countries.

The ICD report, obtained by Al Arabiya, stated that Iran stopped the flow of Alwand River, which runs from western Iran to eastern Iraq, for the past four years.

This caused the damage of around 10% of arable land and rendered the residents of several villages around the river homeless.

The production of several crops has also been greatly affected whether through quantity with a loss that amounted to 80% in some years or through quality that has witnessed a remarkable drop.

Iran, the report added, has also been pumping drainage water into several Iraqi rivers, which led to a rise in their salinity levels and in turn inflicted a substantial damage on marine life, basically demonstrated in the death of several fish species.

This also caused the migration of birds that lived in the area and the emergence of snakes which attack crops and kill livestock.

Iran has also diverted several tributaries of the Tigris River and built dams on others, which had a negative impact on the residents of provinces overlooking the river.

The report noted that the percentage of potable water in Iraq has dropped by 20% and is expected to drop to 40% over the coming 10 years if serious measures are not taken to stop the fast deterioration.

Turkey, the report explained, is also playing a role in the environmental crisis from which Iraq is expected to suffer. The construction of the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River in southeastern Turkey will decrease the amount of water flowing to Iraqi land by 10 billion cubic meters a year.

The procedures taken by both Iran and Turkey are expected to decrease the level of fresh water on the Iraqi part of the Tigris by 70%.

According to the report, water problems in Iraq are aggravated by the change of climate in Iraq, where temperature could reach to 50 degrees Celsius and sand storms have increased by 30% during the past 30 years. Both factors have led to the desertification of large areas of arable land estimated at 2.8 million dunams.

The report stated that the Tigris River alone is currently losing 33 billion cubic meters every day which will lead to the drying of some of its parts within the coming 20 years. This, coupled with the remarkable decrease in rain water, triggered a critical shortage in potable water and drove Iraq to import water from the laboratories of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The report pointed out, poses several questions about how Gulf nations that do not have rivers like Iraq are capable of exporting water while Iraq, historically known as the Land Between Two Rivers, is not capable of providing its people with water.

Another problem, the report added, is the threat of power outage and which means the stoppage of desalination stations hence more shortage in potable water especially in the southern provinces which are already not getting enough.

The ICD said serious measures need to be taken on all those fronts in order to save Iraq from an environmental disaster that is bound to affect the land, the people, and the economy in the most negative way.


* An earlier version of this article incorrectly cited the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) as the source of this story; this has been corrected to say that the source was in fact International Centre of Development Studies (ICD).

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