The government of Iraq has warned that the country could face a water crisis in the absence of a water quota deal with Turkey, which faces its own water shortage challenges.
Media in the region are quoting concerns expressed by Iraq’s water resources minister Medhi Rashid Al-Hamdani in January following recent talks with Turkey on water resources from the Tigris River, one of Iraq’s primary water sources. The minister says that Turkey wants two months to study the issue.
The long-running issue is leading to heightened tensions between the two nations as Turkey continues to progress dam projects upriver from Iraq, including the Ilisu Dam.
According to Iraqi-backed international advocacy group Save the Tigris, Baghdad is hinting that it might use its import trade with Turkey, valued at around $15 Billion USD as a bargaining tool.
Iraq is seeking a monthly water quota, with many Iraqis believing that Turkey is using water supplies from the Tigris River as a political pawn. Meanwhile, Turkey argues that Iraq has an obligation to invest in its decrepit water infrastructure and implement measures for more efficient use of its water resources.
Figures show that the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has reduced by up to 40 percent since the 1970s due in part to activities upstream by its neighbours, including Turkey, which is suffering its own water crisis, as reported by Water Diplomat this week.
Save the Tigris is lobbying for a transboundary approach for the Tigris-Euphrates river basin and calling for a moratorium on new hydropower dams as an essential step towards a sustainable and just economic recovery.