Iraq faces impending drought crisis as Tigris River water levels decline due to Turkish dam construction, warns UN

NEW YORK / BAGHDAD — UN sources have warned that Iraq is on the brink of a severe drought in the Tigris River, leading to adverse climate conditions and water scarcity in northern Iraq, despite the region experiencing high rainfall in previous years.

International organizations anticipate a surge in drought occurrences in northern Iraq as a consequence of diminished water levels in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This decline can be attributed to Turkey’s construction of dams on these rivers, which has a detrimental impact on water availability in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey has plans to construct yet another dam, the Al-Jazra Dam on the Tigris River, primarily for irrigation purposes. Experts assert that this project poses a greater threat to the region’s water supply, saying it will do much more harm compared to the Ilisu Dam, which was constructed to generate energy.

Environmental specialists and activists have issued a grave warning about the impending drying up of the Tigris River.

According to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Norwegian Red Cross on Iraq, climate projections indicate that, “the highlands in the north of the country will likely experience increased aridity.”

The report also predicts that average annual temperatures will rise by 2-3 degrees Celsius in the highlands and 2-4 degrees Celsius in the lowlands by 2050. It further warns that the flow of water into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will decrease, leading to water scarcity due to increasing demand. The United Nations identifies Iraq as one of the countries most severely impacted by climate change.

Last Wednesday, numerous Iraqi deputies called for an “extraordinary” session with relevant ministers in order to address the country’s water scarcity crisis.

Iraq is grappling with encroachments on its water resources from Iran and Turkey. Consequently, there have been calls in the House of Representatives to open discussions with municipalities to find a solution to this crisis, which is adversely affecting animal husbandry and agricultural production.