Fearing drought, Iraq pleads to neighbors to release its water share

Southern Iraq’s Ahwar marshes.

Baghdad ( Iraq has urged neighboring countries to release its share of water from Euphrates and Tigris rivers, warning that it may be facing a “water scarcity” crisis.

Government-owned Al-Sabaah quoted Hamid al-Nayef, spokesperson of the agriculture ministry, saying that “Iraq has made official requests to Turkey and Syria to release its share of Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which had witnessed a great decline,” he added that the requests were made after “those countries failed to commit to agreements and mechanisms determining each country’s share for many reasons, including the construction of dams”.

According to Nayef, the drop in rainfall rates contributed to the decline of water levels at the rivers. He said the government has only managed to provide water to 75 percent of lands allocated for cultivation.

“All regions of Iraq face the danger of water scarcity,” water resources minister, Hassan al-Janabi, told al-Sabaah.

The minister said a visit by the Iraqi side is planned to Turkey soon to discuss Iraq’s water share in light of Turkey’s Ilisu Dam, one of the biggest dams on Tigris River southeast of Turkey and near the borders with Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had directed for combating violations of water resources at southern provinces.

Meanwhile, Hilal al-Sahlani, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s foreign relations committee, warned that the water scarcity danger might cause to remove southern Iraq’s Ahwar marshes from the UNESCO world heritage list.

“As the water crisis exacerbates, Iraq will sooner or later lose Ahwar from the world heritage list,” Sahlani said.

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