Syria and Iraq face drought because of the dams Turkey has built on the Euphrates and Tigris, the two rivers which originate in Turkey and flow over the borders of Iraq and Syria downstream. Diplomatic relations between these countries have a direct effect on the water supplies in the region, and it is the people of Iraq who have been suffering the most in recent years as the waterflow has been drastically reduced in the parts of these two rivers which flow through Iraq.
Moreover, Turkey is not the only country to affect Iraq in this way. The policies of Iran also threaten the lives of the people there. Recently Iran too has begun cutting off the waterflow to Iraq, Rojnews reports.
The construction of dams and the cutting off and diversion of waterflow by Iran causes a major water crisis in Iraq, particularly in the summer months.
In Basra in the south of Iraq, where temperatures exceed 50 degrees centigrade in the summer, people took to the streets in 2018 to protest against the Iranian government for cutting off the water. According to some reports, instead of good river water, contaminated and salty water has been flowing from Iranian territory into Iraq , destroying agricultural areas, and many farmers have been forced to leave their land and migrate to Basra city.
The people of Diyala in the east of the Iraq are severely affected by the water shortages. Nearly all the water sources of Diyala province originate in Iran and the people of Diyala make a living through agriculture and animal husbandry.
Another region affected by Iran’s diversion of water is Sulaymaniyah in the north of Iraq, and particularly the Darbandikhan and Dokan Dams. Iran reduces the waterflow here intermittently, and sometimes the water level is reduced by 70 percent.
Waters from the Zagros Mountains in Iran join the River Tigris in Iraq. The most important of these resources are the Little Zap, Diyala, Karkeh, and Karun Rivers from north to south respectively, and many branches feed these rivers. One of these branches, the River Vind, which joins the River Diyala, is cut off by Iran each summer. Due to these cuts, from June to October or November every year, Hanekin and other regions of Diyala experience serious water shortages and working the land is a lot harder than it used to be.
There are dams on the Tigris and Euphrates with various purposes. The Mosul Dam, which was constructed on the River Tigris in 1986, is Iraq’s most important water source. There are various other dams, like the Dokan, Darbandikhan, Adhaim, Dibbis, Hemrin, Kut, Samarra, and Duhok Dams, also on the River Tigris. The Haditha Dam, located on the River Euphrates and built in 1986, is the largest dam in this region. However, most of the dams built on the two rivers have very limited electricity generation due to inadequate infrastructure and poor maintenance, and these dams are only used to store water. This is why Iraq has to import electricity from Iran and Turkey and the issues of access to water is likely to become more critical in the future due to the crisis over water management in the region.