By John Lee.

Iraq is expected to significantly increase its imports of wheat, as it reportedly cuts the irrigated area it plants with wheat by half in the 2018-2019 growing season due to the continuing water shortages.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Mahdi al-Qaisi told Reuters:

“The shortage of water resources, climate change and drought are the main reasons behind this decision, our expectation is the area will shrink to half.”

The country already imports more than one million tonnes of wheat per year, with annual demand of around 4.5 to 5.0 million tonnes.

Full report here.

(Source: Reuters)

By John Lee.

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi chaired a meeting of the Ministerial Council for National Security (pictured) on Sunday, focusing on the water shortage in Iraq.

The Council viewed a presentation by the Minister of Water Resources, Hassan Al Janabi, which included a plan to address the expected water scarcity for the current summer.

The problem has been exacerbated by the filling of the Ilısu Dam in Turkey, and the recent irregular rainfall.

According to a report from The National, water levels in Iraq’s main rivers have fallen by at least 40 percent in recent decades.

(Sources: Media Office of the Prime Minister, The National)

JICA to Support Reconstruction through Development and Rehabilitation of Water Supply and Irrigation Facilities:

On 3 May, 2018, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Iraqi Government signed two loan agreements at Ministry of Finance in Baghdad.

These two ODA (Official Development Assistance) loans, amounting to JPY 34,880 million (approximately USD 329 million) in total, will be used for Basrah Water Supply Improvement Project (II) and Irrigation Sector Loan (Phase 2).

The loan agreements were signed by Dr. Maher Hammad Johan, Acting Deputy Minister of Finance and Masayuki Hirosawa, Chief Representative of JICA Iraq Office, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Fumio Iwai, Japanese Ambassador to Iraq.  These concessional ODA loans aim to contribute to economic and social reconstruction of Iraq by supporting the Government of Iraq and Iraqi people in efforts to reconstruct and develop further the basic infrastructures for utilization of water resources.

The first loan, Basrah Water Supply Improvement Project (II) amounting to JPY 19,415 million (approx. USD 183 million), is the second tranche loan for Basrah Water Supply Improvement Project.  The entire project is intended to develop water supply facilities and to improve quantity and quality of water supplied in Basrah city and Hartha city.

A new treatment plant with a reverse osmosis plant and transmission system, including a reservoir and a pumping station, are under construction with the finance of the first tranche, the amount of which is JPY 42,969 million (approx. USD 350 million).  The second tranche will be utilized mainly for construction of transmission lines.  After the completion, approximately 600, 000 residents and businesses in the two cities are expected to have access to clean and reliable water.

The second loan, Irrigation Sector Loan (Phase 2) amounting to JPY 15,465 million (approx. USD 146 million), aims to improve agricultural productivity by construction and rehabilitation of irrigation/drainage facilities and restoration of farmland mainly in the Tigris and Euphrates river basin.

While agriculture is the main source of employment and livelihoods for rural population in Iraq, its productivity remains low due to drought in summer seasons, aged irrigation and drainage systems, and rising salinity level of soil and water, and reduced river inflow from the upstream countries. Following the previous first phase project in similar nature assisted by JICA, this second phase project is expected to contribute to increased agricultural production, reduced soil degradation, more job opportunities, and alleviation of poverty in rural areas.

These loans are very concessional with the low interest rates and long repayment periods: the interest rate of 1% and the repayment period of 20 years including 6-year grace period for Basrah Water Supply Improvement Project (II), and the interest rate of JPY 6-month LIBOR+0.15% and the repayment period of 25 years including 7-year grace period for Irrigation Sector Loan (Phase 2).

(Source: JICA)

Creating Alternative Livelihoods for Farming Families in Iraq

In 2017, conflict in Iraq caused new displacements, while other people returned home as areas became safe. At the end of 2017, 2.6 million people remained displaced, and 3.2 million people had returned home since January 2014.

FAO worked with affected communities, focusing on elderly people, people with a disability and families headed by women, to increase access to fresh foods, boost incomes and build skills. Activities both immediately and sustainably improved food security, nutrition, income generation and livelihoods.

FAO supported 2 400 people from 150 villages with backyard poultry production – distributing hens, poultry feeding and drinking equipment, and feed. This enabled each family to produce eggs and poultry meat for their own consumption and for sale.

Further support was provided to conflict-affected families in the form of training, tools and equipment for bee-keeping for honey production, and dairy and fruit processing.

FAO’s cash-for-work programmes provided a valuable source of employment as vulnerable people were paid to clear debris along Ninewa governorate’s Al Jazeera irrigation canals.

The canals provide irrigation water to 250 000 ha of farmland. Cash-for-work programmes were also organized in Kirkuk, Anbar and Salah al Din governorates.

In Ninewa governorate, FAO supported livestock-producing families with animal feed, and commenced an animal health campaign to vaccinate 1 million livestock.

(Source: FAO)

From UN Environment.

How dangerously dirty water is threatening one of the world’s ancient religions

On an unseasonably warm winter afternoon in Baghdad, Sheikh Anmar Ayid hitches up his robe and crouches by the Tigris river. Rocking back and forth on his haunches, he flicks the water from side to side – all the while chanting rhythmically in Aramaic. After finishing his ablutions, a two-minute procedure, the young sheikh turns to a small mud-brick temple and begins to pray.

In past years, Ayid might then have quenched his thirst directly from the river. As a Mandaean priest, an adherent of a pre-Abrahamic faith that’s native to the Fertile Crescent, he and his co-religionists believe the Tigris – and the Euphrates – are sacred and flow from heaven. Clerics are consequently only supposed to drink from and eat food washed in their waters.

That, however, is scarcely even possible these days. Dirtied and drained almost from the moment they rise, Iraq’s great waterways are in bleak states by the time they reach the country’s heavily urbanized centre. To drink straight from them is to invite near instant sickness. And so as the rivers plumb desperate new lows, seemingly worsening by the year, the Mandaeans are struggling to practice their several thousand-year-old rituals.

“We depend on the water for everything, for worship, for daily life, for food,” Ayid said. “But because the water is going from bad to very bad, we are negatively affected.”

Across the world, water pollution is leaving a devastating trail in its wake. Eighty per cent of all wastewater goes untreated, and much of finds its way back into rivers and lakes – where it contributes to ecosystem and public health crises.

Up to a third of all rivers are blighted with pathogenic waste, according to UN Environment data, and a seventh suffer from organic waste problems, mostly from agricultural fertilizer run off. In largely desert countries, like Iraq, worsening sandstorms and diminishing grass cover have caked the rivers with dust and saddled water treatment facilities with a new range of woes.

Never before, though, it seems, has poor water quality imperiled an entire religion. Already threatened by jihadists and criminal gangs, who damn them as heretics and target them for their historic role in the gold trade, the Mandaeans’ numbers have fallen from 100,000 to less than 10,000 in Iraq since 2003. For those who remain, pollution’s assault on one of the central tenets of their faith has added final insult to injury.

In Amarah, 350 km south of Baghdad on the Tigris, the pollution is so debilitating that not even boiling water is enough to prevent local priests from falling ill. At their heavily-guarded riverside temple in the Iraqi capital, Ayid and his colleagues have taken to leaving buckets of water to sit for a day, before skimming off the layer of fetid scum that’s usually accumulated on the top.

From Baghdad to the Mandaeans’ traditional heartlands in the country’s far south, there’s so much glass and trash in the shallows that few worshippers dare set foot in the rivers without wearing sandals.“Our religion believes human nature requires hygiene, and so for us many things are built around water,” Ayid said. “But where is the hygiene here?”

What makes this all the more frustrating for many Mandaeans is that the culprits are hiding in plain sight. With insufficient wastewater treatment facilities and lax environmental regulations, ever-growing volumes of industrial and domestic refuse are seeping into the rivers.

In Baghdad alone, dozens of places, including the Dora oil refinery and the massive Medical City hospital complex, discharge waste directly into the Tigris, according to local conservationists. All this at the same time as upstream dam construction and reduced rainfall cut the rivers’ flow has brought the lifeblood of the Mandaeans faith to the brink of disaster.

“When water levels drop, the health of that lake or river is likely to be affected, both in terms of quantity and quality,” says Lis Mullin Bernhardt, a Programme Officer in UN Environment’s Freshwater Unit. “And the lower the flow, the less likely that water body is to be able to deal naturally with water pollution and contamination.”

Globally, there is an increasing awareness that something drastic has to be done. UN Environment operates a monitoring system, GEMS/Water, which keeps tabs on river and lake water quality, and also helps states establish their own water quality surveillance networks. “For me, it’s like going to the doctor,” Bernhardt says.

“You need that monitoring, those stats and numbers, to understand what’s happening and know a bit more about what you can do about it.” By encouraging the planting of water grasses and the preservation of wetlands, for example, UN Environment is pushing for green solutions to water quality problems.

But for the Mandaeans, the fear is that no manner of solutions might arrive fast enough to save their rituals – and perhaps their very existence. Scattered now across Europe, North America and Australia, they question whether a community as small as theirs can endure in diaspora. That a people whose faith teaches care for the environment might die in part because of it is a tragic irony not lost on Sheikh Ayid.

“Above all, we respect the water, of course. But we respect the Earth and the animals too. It is forbidden, for example, to play with a living tree, to slaughter an animal unless it is needed, or to throw things into the river,” he said. “Our daily life depends on nature, but nature is not being kind to us.”

Learn more about UN Environment’s work on freshwater ecosystems

(Source: UN Environment)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Mustafa Habib.

Iraq’s Lack Of Water Is A Foreign Policy Problem, Ministers Say

Once it was the extremists who held Iraq’s water to ransom. Now it is tribes in Iraq’s southern provinces using water supplies as a deadly weapon.

Last Sunday there was a heated debate in the Iraqi parliament. It was not about the extremist group known as the Islamic State, local militias, the US’ or Iran’s presence in Iraq, corruption or any of the other standard controversies that get MPs yelling at one another. Instead the debate was about water.

The country’s minister for water resources, Hassan al-Janabi, warned that Iraq was about to face a water shortage and that the government urgently needed to make the topic one of foreign policy relevance as well as a domestic issue.

An official report prepared by al-Janabi’s ministry was submitted to parliament and NIQASH was able to read it. It said that Iraq had lost around 30 percent of the water it used to get from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the two major waterways running through Iraq. Within just a few years, it will have lost 50 percent of its share of the rivers’ waters. And that is without taking into account the impact of climate change.

The ministry of water resources said it would begin working on a long-term plan, working toward 2035, which would require an investment of US$184 billion. Of that, US$68 billion would be allocated to water for irrigation and used for agricultural purposes. Over three-quarters of water in Iraq is used for agriculture, industry and for drinking.

Iraq has always been proud of its two major rivers. And up until relatively recently the country had been spared the kinds of devastating droughts that have hurt countries elsewhere. Baghdad residents still remember the floods of the 1950s that used to hit the country every summer until a newly built suburban dam ended them.

But the situation is very different today. A major part of the current problem lies outside the country’s borders. The sources of the Euphrates and the Tigris, as well as long stretches of the rivers, lie outside Iraq. Turkey, Syria and Iran control parts of the rivers and are already building, or have built, large dams to ensure that their countries have enough water in the future.

Iraq, on the other hand, does not currently have the resources to start on such huge strategic projects. The Iraqi government’s abilities are limited to the maintenance of existing dams, mostly built during the Saddam Hussein regime. The most important of these are the Mosul and Haditha dams. Since an earthquake last year, the Dokan dam in northern Iraq has been out of service.

Agriculture is being impacted already. “This year we lost about 30 percent of our wheat and barley crops because of water scarcity, drought and low rainfall,” says Mahdi al-Qaisi, the deputy minister for agriculture in Iraq. “That’s something we haven’t seen in decades and we have to reconsider how we irrigate in the country. We need to switch to crops that don’t require large quantities of water,” he argued.

“We have been making a living from growing wheat and barley for decades,” says Karim al-Hajami, a tribal leader in the Maysan province. “But this year we suffered great losses due to a lack of water. That’s because the waters of the Tigris river were stolen by people in the Wasit province,” he complains. “And the state knows nothing about it.”

What is happening outside Iraq is now also happening inside the country, as provincial councils in southern Iraq fight to divert river water to their provinces or to somehow block the flow further down river. There are also fears that eventually the lack of water will lead to mass internal migration, as people living in drought-stricken areas rush to areas with more water.

“Tribes in Wasit are taking more than they should, according to guidelines from the ministry of water resources,” al-Hajami continues. “And that’s why we don’t get enough water.”

In fact, a few weeks ago there were physical confrontations between different tribes over water. “They would have become serious if it were not for the intervention of government authorities who promised they would try and solve the problem,” al-Hajami says.

However, the farmers in Wasit say that it’s not their fault and that locals even further up river than them are the ones taking all the water which is why they, in turn, have to take more than they are supposed to from the Tigris river.

“The people in Maysan accuse us of taking more than our share but in reality, we are not getting our full share because of a problem with the Tigris river and the low level of water coming in from Turkey,” suggests Abbas al-Maksousi, one of the tribal leaders there.

The same sorts of problems are coming up in the provinces of Dhi Qar and Muthanna too, where fighting erupted between tribes last month because of anxiety over water from the Euphrates.

MP Furat al-Tamimi, who heads the parliamentary committee on water and agriculture, warns that this situation is just going to worsen in coming months. “The problem is complex,” al-Tamimi told NIQASH. “Firstly, the sources of the Euphrates and the Tigris are in neighbouring countries. Turkey in particular is trying to fill its Ilisu Dam project. And secondly its complicated because of abuses in Iraq’s own southern provinces.”

In the provinces, al-Tamimi thinks the ministries of the interior and water resources need to work together to prevent those abuses. “Or we will see more dangerous conflicts in the future,’ he suggests.

Al-Tamimi also believes that Iraq’s water should become a part of other ministerial portfolios because it overlaps the trade, energy, oil and foreign policy sectors. In particular, he believes there is special urgency for the ministry of foreign affairs to get involved.

By John Lee.

An Iraqi government delegation is planning to visit Turkey to discuss environmental concerns over Turkey’s Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River.

Iraqi Water Resources Minister Hassan al-Janabi (pictured) recently commented:

“All regions of Iraq face the danger of water scarcity.”

The amount of water in key Iraqi rivers has reportedly fallen by at least 40 percent in recent decades due to erratic rainfall, and the construction of dams in neighbouring countries.

The Ministry of Water Resources has stressed that Iraq is “keen to maintain cooperation with neighbouring countries, including Turkey, in order to achieve mutual benefit for all the riparian countries on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers through fair and reasonable use and based on the principle of avoiding harm to any party.”

(Sources: Al Manar)

By John Lee.

Nearly 1 million acres (400,000 hectares) of land in the Kurdistan Region have reportedly been rendered barren due to drought.

Faruq Ali, Director of Crop Production at the Ministry of Agriculture and Water resources, told Rudaw:

Due to the lack of rainfall during this year’s plantation season, I predict that nearly 60 percent of land has been planted with wheat compared to last year, and nearly 1 million acres of land have been left barren and unplanted.

“… nearly 40 percent of the wheat planted has been lost.

More here from Rudaw.

(Source: Rudaw)

By John Lee.

Rudaw reports that the construction of a dam in Iran has led to a major reduction in the supply of water to the town of Qaladze in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The dam in Sardasht is on the Khas river, which flows into Qaladze; water supplies are said to be down 80 percent.

Abdulstar Majeed, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Agriculture and Water Resources Minister is to visit Iran to discuss the problem.

(Source: Rudaw)

By John Lee.

National Engineering Services of Pakistan (NESPAK) has set up an office in Iraq, reports The News.

Managing Director Amjad A Khan said that the company has set up its office in Baghdad to deal with the East Gharraf [Gharaf] project awarded by the Ministry of Water Resources.

The project marks the restart of NESPAK operations in Iraq after 23 years, and is aimed at providing sustainable irrigation and drainage facilities to around 390,000 acres of land in Nassiriya and Kut Governorates, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

NESPAK will provide topographic survey and detailed design services for irrigation and drainage networks. The duration of the project is 25 months.

(Source: thenews.com.pk)

(Picture: NESPAK Head Office in Lahore, Pakistan)