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Mesopotamia wilting: what would Iraq do to save its food basket? DinarDailyUpdates?bg=330099&fg=FFFFFF&anim=1

Mesopotamia wilting: what would Iraq do to save its food basket?

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Mesopotamia wilting: what would Iraq do to save its food basket? Empty Mesopotamia wilting: what would Iraq do to save its food basket?

Post by RamblerNash Thu Dec 02, 2021 9:29 pm

Mesopotamia wilting: what would Iraq do to save its food basket? 1638345901228
2021-12-01 00:07

Shafaq News / The land of Hajj Abu Assaad cuts much of the story short; instead of being embodied as a farmer contributing to Mesopotamia's food basket, he now seeks to partition his green field into separate plots to be sold as residential units.

The loss of Abu Assaad is a foretaste of the loss that has been threatening Iraq for several years and has been exacerbated over the past months by several factors, including the drought crisis, the climate change, the constraints of neighboring countries, the complexities of politics, interests, history, and the misuse of water resources.

Abu Assaad is dividing his orchards, which extend up to 40 dunums north of Baquba as residential land, due to water scarcity that has harmed Diyala. This agricultural governorate used to be called the orange city, because it produced various crops.

Experts warn that as a result of this situation, Iraq's food security is jeopardized, and the country has become an open market for imported vegetables and fruits from neighboring nations. At the same time, Iraq appears to face a difficult choice in negotiating with Iran and Turkey over its water shares.

Climate change threatens the entire world, but Iraq is among the most affected countries because it relies on neighboring countries to provide water. Those countries are also affected by the region's drought, leading them to try monopolizing their water supplies and decrease flows to Iraq, requiring the latter to try to cope and cut the area of land allotted to agriculture to a great extent.

As a result, the United Nations ranked Iraq fifth in the world among the most affected countries by these threats.

There are no specific data on the quantity of water flowing into Iraq, with estimates varying from 90% of water income from Turkey to 10% from Iran. Some estimate that Iran provides 35% of Iraq's water revenue each year.

Iraq has suffered greatly due to falling Turkish and Iranian water imports, drought, and low annual rainfall.

According to the United Nations, "climate change reduces annual rainfall in Iraq, leading to increased dust storms, reduced agricultural production, and worsening water scarcity." At the same time, the United Nations Environment Programme stated that in 2015, every Iraqi had 2,100 cubic meters of available water annually. However, that amount would be reduced to 1,750 cubic meters by 2025.

Iraq is now addressing the threat on multiple fronts; with Turks, Syrians, and Iranians, where 42 rivers shared with Iraq are believed to become sluggish, while Iraqi officials say that Tehran is attempting to bring Iraqis back to negotiations to renew Baghdad's recognition of the famous Algiers agreement, which Saddam Hussein canceled in 1980, one of the reasons for the outbreak of the long war between them.

The Algiers Agreement, made in 1975 with the regime of the deposed Shah of Iran, is significant because it organizes the sharing of the Shatt al-Arab and governs the sharing of water resources between the two countries from Iranian territory, particularly the 42 rivers.

Turkey's problem, which dates back nearly 100 years, is that it does not recognize the Tigris and Euphrates as "international rivers," and specifically considers the Euphrates to be "cross-border", which has various legal implications, allowing Ankara, in its vision, to erect many dams to take advantage of the running water on its territory.

During the 1970s, Turkey built the Kepan dam, the Ataturk Dam in the 1990s, and the Aliso Dam in 2018, as part of a giant water project to build 22 dams to reclaim hundreds of thousands of hectares. However, Baghdad considers Ankara to violate a 1997 UN agreement on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which prohibits activities that threaten to harm Iraq's water interests.

In any case, Iraqis now believe that the Turks are showing a greater response to Iraq's water demands than the Iranians.

"The Ministry of Water Resources is interacting with neighboring countries, Syria, Turkey, and Iran to share the damage of the crisis, as the dry season affected everyone and was not restricted to one country," Hatem Hamid Hussein, director-general of the National Center for Water Resources Management, told Shafaq News agency, "Turkey has been contacted to release appropriate amounts of water in the Tigris River, similar to Syria for the same purpose, and is committed to the agreement. However, the problem lies in poor communication with Iran, which has refused to respond to Iraq's requests for meetings to solve the problems of common rivers and establish a specific damage-sharing process between the two countries."

"Last summer, a delegation from the Ministry of Water Resources visited Turkish dams to inspect the water treasury, and discovered that it is small and does not reach half of the capacity, particularly at the Aliso dam. As a result, Turkey pledged to share the damage, and if the treasury had been larger, we would have asked for larger releases. Furthermore, the amount of water released this year is comparable to the past years' releases," Hussein said.

Regarding Iran's cutting off of the small rivers reaching Iraq, Hussein stated, "Iran has seasonal rivers, and due to the lack of the rainy season, some rivers have dried up. However, the Diyala River has a few waters drains. According to sources, there is a diversion of its direction inside Iran, which has caused a decrease in water drains in Iraq and Diyala governorate that was the first victim of the Diyala River's water shortages, as the river covered the governorate's need of potable and irrigation water."

On the Syrian side, Hussein pointed that the two nations' ministerial meetings every three months, as well as monthly technical meetings, are continuing to implement the joint plan, and there is a commitment to the agreed-upon water releases.

"There are Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian-Syrian committees, including representatives from the ministries of Resources and Foreign Affairs, who always put these conditions in existing agreements," Hussein explained, "Unfortunately, nothing has been implemented so far, and there is a future trend to use this file to negotiate with neighboring countries."

"The Ministry of Water Resources has taken the necessary measures to prepare operational plans to manage the reservoirs at the country's main dams, taking into account the priority of securing drinking and irrigating water for an entire year, and meeting the Marshes' need by adopting few water expenditures," Hussein continued.

He noted that the plans would secure the actual requirement for human-useable water for at least a year, given that the crisis was still ongoing and rainfall appeared to be scarce this season, stressing the need to legalize the use of strategic water treasuries.

"Consumption must be rationalized, and modern irrigation methods should be recommended to codify water use and non-waste," he added, "Among the methods adopted by the ministry are digging 150 new wells, rehabilitating existing wells, installing pumping stations to provide water to damaged areas, cleaning and improving irrigation canals to eliminate waste and excesses."

Hussein also discussed the technical challenges that the Ministry of Water Resources is facing as a result of reduced financial allocations, as well as the increase in mud deposits lurking in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, with Baghdad alone having more than 20 million tons of mud deposits at the bottom of the Tigris River.

According to Ramadhan Hamza Mohammed, chief water strategist and policy expert, agricultural areas are expected to be split in half due to the lack of strategic stock in dams, excesses on agricultural land and water quotas, the use of traditional irrigation methods by Iraqi farms, salinization of land due to the lack of reservoir maintenance, and other factors.

He also added, "Reducing agricultural fields is not the solution. Instead, farmers should be required to abide by water quotas, remove excesses, maintain irrigation projects, and address the Marshes' problem seriously."


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