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Drought raises alarm bells in Iraq and eyes are on desalination plants

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Drought raises alarm bells in Iraq and eyes are on desalination plants

The country is facing a "terrifying" decline in the water level, and Basra is the most affected province

Muayyad Al-Terfi is an Iraqi reporter    Saturday 23 April 2022 2:29

For the third consecutive season, the water revenues coming to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whether from Turkey and Iran , or from rain and snowmelt in the tops of the Iraqi mountains, decreased, which seemed to be below the level of ambition to enhance the country's water reserves in the coming period.

Iraq relies annually to feed its rivers on water from Turkey and Iran, especially in the spring, as well as rain and snow. However, the current season has witnessed a significant and unprecedented decline for several years, which was evident in the decline in the area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers within Iraqi territory and drought Rivers and lakes in Diyala Governorate, such as Hamrin and Diyala River.

The disappearance of Hamrin

The decline in water revenues in Diyala, which has a population of one million and 600,000 people this year, represented by torrential rains from Iran, and a significant lack of rainfall, has led to a decrease in the two billion cubic meter reservoir of Lake Hamrin to more than 95 percent, which negatively affected the sector. Agriculture, forcing many to abandon the agricultural profession on which most of the population depends.

Aoun Diab, advisor to the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources, said, "The available water storage is much less than what we had last year, because it decreased by 50 percent due to the lack of rain and the few imports from neighboring countries.

He added in press statements that "the successive drought years: 2020, 2021 and 2022, had a strong impact on the situation of water revenues in Iraq," noting that this matter gives a warning about how to use water during the next summer and during the winter season.

11 billion cubic meters wasted

For his part, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources, Ali Radi, said that the ministry warned in its strategic study for the years 2014-2035 that Iraq would lose more than 11 billion cubic meters of total revenues that reach the country.

He added that the year 2019 witnessed a wet flood year, and the average revenue reached 140 percent of the expected rate, indicating that these water revenues led at that time to a very large rise in the level of storage, which led to the avoidance of water scarcity in the current years.

Radi explained that there are other factors that caused a decrease in water revenues, including the large population expansion on rivers, especially for upstream countries, in addition to the expansion of the construction of large reservoir dams, irrigation projects and land use, stressing that they led to an increase in water consumption in large proportions, which affected the quality of the incoming water. to Iraq.

During the past years, the Iraqi governments have repeatedly called on Iran and Turkey to negotiate, in order to find solutions to the issue of water sharing between the three parties, whether with regard to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers or returning the Karun River to its natural state to feed the Shatt al-Arab, but they have not succeeded in achieving results. Positive remember.

Although Iraq is an important trading partner for Iran and Turkey and is one of the major importers of materials manufactured in the two countries, as well as its contracts with their companies to implement projects in various fields, the two sides were moving in the opposite direction to this Iraqi rapprochement, as they took a series of continuous measures that increased the Significantly reduce the country's water revenue.

desalination plants

In turn, the former representative of Basra Governorate , Wael Abdel Latif, said that the solution to the water crisis lies in establishing water desalination plants for Basra Governorate, which only receives salty and polluted water.

He said, "The wheat and barley crops are damaged by the lack of water, because the available water is highly saline water," noting that Basra is the most affected governorate, as it is the last governorate to receive water, and only sewage and water contaminated with factory and hospital waste.

international crisis

Abdul Latif explained that the water crisis in Iraq is an international crisis and needs a self-confident negotiator, pointing out that if the situation remains as it is without finding solutions to Iraq's water rights, it will mean turning the Tigris and Euphrates rivers into small rivers and canceling the concept of Mesopotamia.

The name Mesopotamia is due to the presence of two large rivers in Iraq and the size of the agricultural lands irrigated by these two rivers.

British funded project

He added that the solution to the water crisis in Basra province is desalination, whose project was previously adopted by a British company that withdraws and desalinates sea water and delivers it to every house in Basra, indicating that this solution is currently the only solution to the water crisis and was put forward last year but has not been adopted so far.

The Iraqi Integrity Commission had held the Ministry of Construction, Housing, Municipalities and Public Works responsible for delaying the implementation of the seawater desalination plant project in Basra Governorate.

The Authority's Prevention Department stated in a report delivered to the Iraqi Prime Minister that there was a clear delay by the ministry regarding benefiting from the amount of the British loan amounting to ten billion pounds allocated for the construction of the Basra water desalination plant project, indicating that the ministry was unable to conclude a contract with any A specialized company that has sold and similar works in the field of sea water desalination, under the pretext of its commitment to contract exclusively with British companies.

The report urged the need to invest time and avoid wasted time to complete this important (strategic) project that serves Basra governorate in particular and the governorates of the south and the middle Euphrates in general, as well as the capital, Baghdad, as well as ensuring the water security of the country, if the neighboring countries controlling the sources of the Tigris evade and the Euphrates for its obligations in relation to water releases.

The report pointed out that the project to be established would provide a water capacity of up to one million cubic meters per hour, and therefore it is one of the most important strategic projects that were supposed to overcome all obstacles that prevent the speedy completion of it.

pressure on Ankara

For his part, head of the Union of Farmers' Associations, Hassan Al-Tamimi, stressed the need to put pressure on upstream countries to ensure Iraq's share of water.

Al-Tamimi added that "the Ministry of Water should work to ensure Iraq's share of water and put pressure on the upstream countries, especially after the level of the Tigris and Euphrates decreased and the rates of rain and snow decreased," calling on the Iraqi government and the Iraqi parliament to pressure the Turkish side to give the country's share of water.

He pointed out that last year the agricultural areas did not decrease by 50 percent, but rather more than that due to the lack of water, pointing out that the union is waiting for the Ministry of Water Resources for its decision regarding the summer agricultural plan.

Al-Tamimi stressed the need to follow modern solutions and techniques in sprinkler and drip irrigation.

Sweetness is the solution

In turn, the international specialist in food security, Fadel Al-Zoubi, said that it is necessary for Iraq to resort to desalinated water to the southern regions for the purposes of agriculture and drinking, and to rely on seeds that resist high salinity.

Al-Zoubi, who was a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Iraq (FAO), added that "Iraq's role depends on cross-border waters, and the countries in which the rivers have water levels will decrease," noting that

these countries, due to this decrease, do not give the full share simultaneously. With the scarcity of rain, which will affect the water storage and groundwater.

He pointed out that the most important of these solutions is desalination water, which if Iraq had started building these plants 15 years ago, it would have been much cheaper, pointing out that these solutions have been proposed to the Iraqi government since 2007.

Gulf water

Al-Zoubi added that it is possible to supply the southern regions with desalinated water from Gulf water, as well as the northern and central regions that depend on river water, stressing that the

desalinated water can be desalinated to different degrees, one of which is for drinking and the other for agriculture.

He explained that it is possible to exploit the high oil prices in order to start these projects, especially since Iraq is an energy country and it has no problem in providing energy to these stations.

Rationalization and seeds

There are steps that must be relied upon to save water, which is the use of modern irrigation methods to save water and relying on seeds that bear a high degree of salinity, because many countries have started to cultivate with this type of seeds and have succeeded, such as China and Saudi Arabia, according to Al-Zoubi, who indicated that there are crops that can It is irrigated with salt water, such as barley.

The Euphrates River originates from the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, penetrates the Syrian lands, and then enters the Iraqi lands at Al-Bukamal in the Anbar Governorate, to meet with the Tigris River to form the Shatt Al-Arab.

The length of the Euphrates River from its source in Turkey to its mouth in the Shatt al-Arab is 2,940 km, including 1,176 km in Turkey, 610 km in Syria and 1,160 km in Iraq, and its width ranges from 200 to more than 2,000 meters at its mouth.

The Tigris River originates in the Taurus Mountains in southeastern Anatolia in Turkey, crosses the Syrian-Turkish border, and runs within the territory of Syria for a length of approximately 50 km, then enters the territory of Iraq at the village of Fishkhabur.

The length of the course of the river is about 1,718 km. It originates in Turkey and most of its course is inside Iraqi territory, with a length of about 1,400 km.

Five tributaries pour into it after entering Iraqi territory (the Khabur, the Great Zab, the Little Zab, the Great, and Diyala).

These tributaries bring to the river two-thirds of its water, and the other third It comes from Turkey.

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