Turkey increases water flow into drought-hit Iraq, says official

Talks could lead to initial one-month-deal with Ankara being extended

More water will flow through the Tigris from Turkey's Ilisu dam into Iraq in a bid to address a shortage. AFP
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Turkey has turned the tap to allow more water to flow to Iraq in the Tigris river and alleviate acute water shortages, the Iraqi Water Resources Ministry said on Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Khalid Shamal said Ankara was “releasing 1,500 cubic metres per second, doubling the previous amount”.

During a two-day visit to Turkey last month by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered flows to the Tigris to increase for a month, from Turkey's vast Ilisu dam.

“We realise the water scarcity in Iraq but the precipitation in Turkey is at its lowest level in 62 years,” Mr Erdogan said during a joint press conference with Mr Al Sudani. "We are going through a drought that is further deepening due to climate change."

Despite that, he continued, Turkey decided to increase water flow to the Tigris for a month “as much as possible to alleviate Iraq's problem”.

Mr Shamal said the deal could be extended as “discussions between Baghdad and Ankara were still going to solve this issue fairly and definitively”.

The Turkish move will help the summer season, refresh the marshlands and increase water levels in dams, he added.

Iraq has suffered severe environmental degradation and water scarcity as a result of climate change, alarming levels of pollution and mismanagement.

The country is experiencing its worst drought in decades, with temperatures exceeding 50°C last summer. Many of Iraq’s lakes have dwindled or dried up.

The country is the fifth most vulnerable in the world to climate change, the UN Environment Programme has reported.

A network of Turkish dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers built over the past 50 years have made water scarcity problems worse. Iran has also built dams on tributaries feeding the Tigris.

The rivers, which account for more than 90 per cent of Iraq's fresh water, currently receive less than 30 per cent of their normal flow from Turkey and Iran, Deputy Environment Minister Jassim Al Falahi said last week.

Updated: April 04, 2023, 3:17 PM