By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Iraq fears bevy of levees will mean parched years ahead

Although water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers have been rising as torrential rains fill some of the largest dams in Iraq, the threat of drought persists.

Turkey is now taking the necessary steps to fill its controversial Ilisu Dam, while Iran continues to cut off tributaries of the rivers flowing into Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a March 7 rally that the country will begin filling the reservoir of the dam on the Tigris River in June, despite warnings from the Iraqi government that the process will dry out large areas of the country.

Click here to read the full story.

By Fehim Tastekin for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Turkey has launched an effort to help resolve the water problem of neighboring Iraq amid bilateral tensions over decreasing flow rates in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, whose waters the two countries share.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appointed a special envoy to Iraq. Veysel Eroglu is a former forestry and water affairs minister who has been in Erdogan’s close entourage since the 1990s, when the president was mayor of Istanbul. Much in the style of a “water czar,” Eroglu has formed a special team of experts from various ministries and began work on an action plan for better water management in Iraq.

Though Baghdad’s initial reaction has been positive, Turkey’s prospective road map might fail to satisfy Iraqi expectations, given the two sides’ diverging views on the causes of water shortages and how the problem should be resolved.

Click here to read the full story.

Continued Winter Assistance Needed for Displaced and Vulnerable Iraqis: IOM

As winter temperatures set in, accompanied by winds and rain, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq has completed the three-month distribution of 25,000 winter non-food item kits. Consisting of heaters, blankets and jerry cans, the kits meet the most urgent needs of 150,000 vulnerable individuals across the country.

IOM’s winterization assistance reached 13,000 displaced households in camps, thousands of displaced families in informal settlements, and thousands of others who have returned to their home communities.

“Although displaced households are continuing to return to their home communities, those remaining in camps or informal settlements are often the most vulnerable and have little to protect themselves against the cold winter conditions,” said Gerard Waite, IOM Iraq Chief of Mission.

In partnership with local governmental authorities, IOM prioritized distributions in hard-to-reach or insecure areas where other humanitarian partners are not present, such as in communities bordering Syria and in Qayrawan and Hatra, in Ninewa governorate.

Of the 1.8 million persons who remain displaced as a result of the conflict with ISIL, over 500,000 are in camps and 140,000 live in critical shelter arrangements (informal settlements, schools or religious or abandoned buildings). More than four million people previously displaced have returned to their homes since mid-2015, but many continue to live in precarious conditions.

As people return home, many have found their personal belongings stolen and their houses damaged. With massive destruction in areas of return and limited economic opportunities, returnee households are exposed to the harsh effects of winter and are unable to afford items to cope with the cold.

The provision of humanitarian assistance in areas of return is therefore critical to support the reintegration of returning displaced families and other vulnerable households in conflict-affected communities.

“After being displaced for a year and a half in the city of Kirkuk, we returned to our village, which was destroyed by ISIL. Everything was damaged, including our house and shop, which was our only source of income. We had to start our life from scratch, while our deteriorating financial condition and cold weather forced us to use firewood as a heating source during the chilly winter nights. We are very happy to receive these items, now we will have a heater to stay warm,” said Nora, a mother of four children, at a distribution in Al Abassi district, Kirkuk governorate.

“Despite the success of this winter response operation, we are extremely concerned for the many Iraqis who remain in displacement who will have to endure another harsh winter in camps and in sub-standard shelters,” said Alberto Preato, Head of IOM Iraq’s Preparedness and Response Unit.

“This year we are piloting innovative approaches to housing reconstruction and cash-based humanitarian assistance to enable displaced families return to their home communities,” he continued.

IOM’s winter non-food item kits are funded by the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

As more displaced families attempt to return home, IOM remains committed to supporting the Government of Iraq to seek durable solutions for vulnerable displaced persons and address needs of conflict-affected communities throughout the country.

Click here to watch a video of an IOM staff member speaking about winter support for displaced Iraqis and returnees.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Turkey has reportedly appointed a special envoy to Iraq to resolve the water sharing issues between the two countries.

According to Daily Sabah, former Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu (pictured), who will take up the post, pointed to the “inefficient” use of water resources in Iraq, saying “Turkey will share its experience and know-how in the efficient management of water with the Iraqis.

He added that Turkey will try to ensure an equitable share of water from the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

More here.

(Source: Daily Sabah)

Testing the water: How water scarcity could destabilise the Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa is the most water-scarce region in the world. Nearly two-thirds of the population there are living in areas that lack sufficient renewable water resources to sustain current levels of activity and growth, according to a report from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Tareq Bacconi argues that it is impossible to separate Iraq’s water security from the ongoing conflict and unrest in the country, saying that Iraq faces an extreme situation when it comes to water, one that is exacerbated by domestic tensions, regional developments, and the weight of conflicts and sanctions that began following the first Gulf War in 1990.

The full report can be read here.

(Source: ECFR)

(Picture credit: Mohammad Huzam)

WHO and Ministry of Health investigate the massive death of fish in southern governorates of Iraq

Laboratory tests conducted on water samples in the reference lab in Amman, Jordan on the cause of death of freshwater fish in the Euphrates River in Iraq have revealed the contamination of water with high content of coliforms, heavy metals, and high concentration of ammonia.

Health experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Environment in Iraq say that while these materials are toxic to fish, they pose no health threat to humans.

Testing on dead fish has revealed serious issues that warranted WHO to conduct a second investigation related to probable viral infection of fish causing the death of thousands in the river. Results of the second test are due next week.

The laboratory investigations came in response to a request to WHO by the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment to assess the likely effects of the fish death on humans and the environment.

As early as 2 November this year, thousands of tonnes of fish have died in the Euphrates River causing significant loss to fish farms and production in the southern part of Iraq especially in Babel province, 85 kilometers south of Baghdad.

WHO continues to work with its MOH counterparts to develop appropriate preventive measures to effectively mitigate and respond to future incidents of this nature.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Turkey has announced that it will increase water supplies to Iraq to compensate for a drop in supply from Iran.

According to Abu Dhabi-based The National, Iran has said it will cut water supplies to Iraq to prioritise projects within Iran.

Turkey depends on water from the Tigris to fill a reservoir behind its new Ilısu dam.

This summer, Iraq’s agriculture ministry banned the growing of water-intensive crops due to shortages.

(Sources: The National, Sabah, Rudaw)

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Sweet Iraqi dates adorn tables in homes across the country, but the fruit tree and national symbol has come under threat from conflict and crippling drought.

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From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq is running out of water.

Its planning ministry says about 90 percent of land is now desert and the small amount of remaining farmland is shrinking by five percent each year.

Now farmers say their futures are dying with their crops.

Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad:

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)