Iraq asked neighboring Turkey on Saturday to release larger quantities of water upstream in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which cross these two countries facing drought and often at odds over the management of water resources.
Baghdad regularly complains about the dams built upstream by its neighbors and which reduce the flow of the rivers upon their arrival in Iraq. The authorities present Iraq as one of the five countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and desertification.
On Saturday, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Mehdi al-Hamdani spoke by videoconference with the Turkish President’s Special Representative for Iraq, Veysel Eroglu. The two officials discussed “the quantities of water arriving in Iraq through the Tigris and Euphrates rivers” which have their sources in Turkey, according to an Iraqi press release. “Minister Hamdani asked the Turkish side to review the amounts of water released, so as to enable Iraq to overcome the current water shortage.”
Quoted by the Iraqi press release, the Turkish official said he was ready to send the message to the water services in Ankara to “increase the quantities of water released in the coming days, depending on the reserves available” on the Turkish side. The two parties agreed on the forthcoming visit of an “Iraqi technical delegation” which would be authorized to “assess on site the water reserves at the Turkish dams”.
This dossier is fueling tensions between Baghdad and Ankara. On Tuesday, Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq, Ali Riza Güney, caused outrage with his statements accusing Iraqis of mismanaging their water resources. “Water is heavily wasted in Iraq,” he said on Twitter, pleading for “immediate measures to reduce this waste” and referring in particular to “the modernization of irrigation systems”.
The Iraqi Minister of Water Resources retorted that Ankara assumed “the right to reduce Iraq’s water quota”. With declining rainfall, Iraq experienced three successive drought years. Authorities have halved cultivated agricultural areas in the country of 42 million people. “Water reserves have dropped by 60% compared to last year,” said a government official quoted by the Iraqi news agency INA on Wednesday. According to his figures, the level of water arriving from the Tigris and Euphrates was 35% of the average amount arriving in the country over the past hundred years.