With the regional drought carrying on for its third year, Iraq is in a water bind as its rivers dry up. Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports that Baghdad has urged Istanbul and Damascus to release water so that residents of southern Iraq don’t flee of thirst. The problem is that they are suffering from water problems of their own. Left, the three countries’ ministers meet in Ankara.
Iraq, once a food exporter, has to import 80 percent of its supply this year. The country has turned off the hydroelectric power plants over the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers to release dammed waters, but it hasn’t been enough. Now Iraq wants Syria and Turkey, both upstream, to release their own dams. In response, Turkey said they are trying, but global warming is decreasing the water supply there too:
“We even abnegated our electricity production in order to provide Iraq and Syria with more water,” said Environment and Forest Minister Veysel Eroğlu, who hosted the Ankara summit along with Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız.
Eroğlu said climate change was the main cause of the dried-up riverbeds.
“Turkey’s biggest dam, the Atatürk Dam, has been almost emptied. The water level decreased by 10 percent,” he said, confirming that his country had provided a flow of 500 cubic meters per second in line with its legal responsibilities.
Iraq’s water shortage is having disastrous effects. An area that used to be known as the Garden of Eden – 9,00 km. sq. of lush marshes – has shriveled into a parched pach of 760 km. sq. The depopulated wasteland is becoming a haven for drug smugglers. In April Turkey announced it would release more water to revive the marshes, but apparently that effort hasn’t gotten too far.
But Syria and Turkey have their issues, as well. Climate change has emptied out 160 villages in the northern reaches of Syria, while lakes in Turkey have been drying up or turning into polluted salt water marshes thanks to warming and river diversion.
:: Photo from Hurriyet