Spotlight: Iraqi expert warns of Turkey's reservoir filling impact on Iraq

Source: Xinhua| 2018-06-07 00:05:46|Editor: yan
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BAGHDAD, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Turkey's filling of the massive Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River since June 1, is likely to create a water crisis in Iraq, warned an Iraqi expert.

Millions of Iraqis, living in the Mesopotamia created by the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris, are facing shortage of water for drinking, agricultural irrigation, power generation and transportation.

On the huge sedimentary plains, rain accounts for 30 percent of its water resources and the remaining 70 percent come from rivers and marshes shared with Turkey in the north and Iran in the east and Syria in the west.

The largest Iraqi rivers are Tigris and Euphrates which flow from the Turkish highlands, where Turkey has been building massive irrigation and water-management project, known as Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP).

The projects have reduced the flow of the rivers, leading to fears among Iraqis over a crisis in drinking water, reduction in agricultural lands and increasing desertification, said Sabah al-Sheikh, an Iraqi political analyst.

Turkey launched the GAP project as a massive hydroelectric and irrigation project consisting of 22 dams and 19 hydroelectric power plants on both the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

Sheikh criticized the successive Iraqi governments, especially after 2003, for failing to adopt effective measures to prevent the anticipated water crisis or lessen its impacts.

"Research centers and experts have long been urging the governments to build dams with massive reservoirs and smaller dams to prevent sending the water to the Gulf states without exploiting it," he added.

Water level decreased sharply in Iraq's Mosul, Salahudin and Baghdad, after Turkey filled the dam on Friday, raising concerns among Iraqis that severe draught could hit their areas and farms.

A video shared on social media showed people walking across the Tigris River in Baghdad, where the water is barely deeper than knee-level.

On June 2, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Hassan al-Janabi tried to play down fears of the Iraqi people amid lower level of water flow in Tigris River.

In a press conference in Baghdad, Janabi told reporters despite the reduction of water flow, Iraq has enough drinking water, as well as enough water to irrigate hundreds of thousands of square km of summer corps farms and orchards.

The Turkish ambassador to Baghdad confirmed on June 5, that Iraqi should not fear from the filling of the reservoir of the massive dam on Tigris River, saying the flow of water will be sufficient.

"Filling the reservoir of Ilisu Dam will take nearly a year, and sufficient quantities of water would continue to flow to Iraq," Turkish Ambassador Fatih Yildiz told reporters in Baghdad.

In fact, Iraq and Turkey have signed several treaties in the past decades aimed at regulating the use of water of the two great rivers.