Turkish Dams Leaving Iraqi Fields Thirsting for Water

euphrates river turkey water dispute photo

The Euphrates River flows through Turkey (pictured) and Syria before reaching Iraq.

In ancient times, Iraq was called Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers" in Greek. But today, the life-giving Tigris and Euphrates rivers -- both of which flow through Turkey as well -- are not providing enough water to meet the country's agricultural needs, and Iraqi officials are pointing the finger squarely at the neighboring government in Ankara. Despite normal levels of rain over the winter, Iraqi dams are less than one-third as full as they were three years ago, reports the AFP, and experts are predicting disastrous results this summer if the situation is not changed.

"If the water level in the Euphrates continues to decrease, there will be a disaster in July because it will not be possible to irrigate crops," warned Aoun Thiab Abdullah, director of the National Centre for Water Resources. "The drought will cause displacement," he said, noting that Iraqi agriculture depends on river water for 90 percent of its irrigation.

Euphrates Flowing More Slowly
The Najaf province in southern Iraq has already banned farmers from planting rice, a crop that requires intensive irrigation. The lack of water also threatens the country's already-suffering marshlands and could dangerously increase the salinity of the Euphrates.

Iraqi experts say the problem is the many dams Turkey has built over the past 30 years to irrigate its agricultural lands in the southeast. These dams allow Turkey to regulate the flow of rivers according to its needs. The flow speed of the Euphrates, which runs from Turkey through Syria, is currently only 230 cubic metres (8,100 cubic feet) per second, down from the 2000 level of 950 cubic metres per second.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül promised in March to double the amount of water allowed to flow downstream to Iraq, but that has not materialized. Iraqi authorities say they have had no success petitioning the Ankara government for a reprieve. The country's parliament has now passed a bill that would ensure getting a fair share of water is part of all future bilateral negotiations with Turkey, as well as with its other upstream neighbors, Iran and Syria. Via: Turkey blamed for looming crop 'disaster' in Iraq," Agence France-Presse

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