Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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To confront drought and desertification: Iraqi moves towards Turkey and Iran

Friday 24/March/2023 - 12:05 PM
The Reference
Mohamed Shaat

Within the framework of Iraqi moves to confront the risks and great losses caused by droughts in the country, the parliamentary Agriculture Committee announced the resumption of negotiations with the Turkish side to increase water releases, and it also revealed the intention to form a delegation to visit Iran to discuss the same file.

The official Iraqi News Agency (INA) quoted Rafik al-Salihi, a member of the Agriculture Committee in the Iraqi parliament, that the members of the committee visited the president, the prime minister, and the ministries of foreign affairs and defense to follow up on the file of water from Turkey, given that the file is related to national security. He added that a government delegation was formed to visit Turkey and its officials met, and that negotiations are underway to increase water releases in the Tigris River.

Salihi added that a delegation will also be formed to visit Iran to participate in the negotiations and open water releases to Iraq from the Karun River and the rest of the tributaries, explaining that Iraq must resort to international courts in the event that the upstream countries do not respond, given that there are international agreements that impose the adoption of the principle of fairness in the distribution of water shares.


Millions displaced

Because of the potential repercussions of the risks of drought, a joint environmental report by international and Iraqi organizations warned in February of the possibility of the displacement of about two million people from the western regions of Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq during the next decade as a result of drought and the depletion of water resources in those areas due to the lack of rain retention in the past two seasons.

The forecasts contained in a joint report by the international organization Solidarités and the Iraqi NGO Humat Dijlah (Guardians of the Tigris River) used the expectations of the Iraqi Ministry of Environment, which indicates the possibility of the displacement of more than four million residents of the western regions in Nineveh Governorate, specifically the residents of the towns of Sinjar, Tal Afar and Al-Ba’aj, who will be forced to leave these areas within the next seven years due to drought.


Confronting dangerous situations

Iraqi political analyst Ghazi Faisal said in exclusive statements to the Reference that there are many reasons for the Iraqi moves towards Turkey and Iran, which are aimed at resuming negotiations with the Turkish side to increase water releases, in addition to the visit of a delegation to Iran about the interruption of more than 12 very important rivers that flow into the Tigris and also feed agriculture in the regions bordering Iran.

Faisal explained that all reports indicate severe water scarcity and depletion in some areas. For example, in the Mosul Dam in Nineveh Governorate, there is no more than 30% of the traditional water storage, and this is a major disaster for permanent farms in that important region, such as the Nineveh Plains, Salah al-Din, and other agricultural areas in the north, center or south of Iraq, all of which are exposed to the dangers of drought.

The water situation in Iraq has become dangerous, especially in the high rates of desertification due to water depletion, which represents a strong motive to start these moves, Faisal continued, adding that there is a great responsibility on the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the relevant executive authorities, the Ministry of Irrigation, and the Ministry of Agriculture to search for serious solutions to raise water rates and levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and various other water sources.

Turkey cannot continue to release water disbursements that are not commensurate with Iraq's need in the field of agriculture to provide food security and also preserve the environment, Faisal said, noting that one of the most important aspects of preserving the environment is the issue of combating desertification, a phenomenon that has serious effects on the various facilities of life in Iraq, in addition to the neighboring countries. For all these reasons, Iraq’s moves are important and commensurate with Iraqi policies to also achieve a balance in relations with neighboring countries and ensure mutual interests.