Sept. 7, 2018
- The failing water infrastructure in Basra, Iraq, is causing plague-like conditions in the local population. Some 500 to 600 individuals are admitted to emergency rooms daily because of water poisoning accompanied by skin diseases.
- The Tigris River, which crosses the city and used to be the main source of drinking water and agriculture, is almost dry and one can cross the river on foot. A few years ago, one needed to cross on bridges or take a boat because of the depth.
- The main factors which contributed to this humanitarian catastrophe are the six-year-long ongoing drought and, more importantly, the fact that both Turkey and Iran are diverting water away from Iraq’s rivers.
- The two countries have constructed dams on the Euphrates and the Tigris, reducing the flow of water into Iraq by more than 40%. At least 42 rivers and springs from Iran have been diverted by the Iranians. The Turks have built five big dams on the Tigris and several minor ones (part of a grand design to build 14 on the Euphrates and eight on the Tigris).
- Nearly 30% of the Tigris’ waters originate in Iran, where the Daryan Dam was completed and opened in 2018, leaving central and southern Iraq without adequate water. Two additional Iranian dams have reduced the flow in the Karoun and Kerkhe rivers, two main tributaries of the Tigris north of Basra.
- Moreover, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iraq used to generate power from 12 hydroelectric stations. Reduced water flow has left major Iraqi cities with only an intermittent supply of electricity.
The writer, a special analyst at the Jerusalem Center, was formerly Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.