Historic water levels at Iraq reservoirs and dams

Flooded houses are pictured in southern Iraq's al-Qurna district, north of Basra. (AFP)
Updated 11 April 2019
0

Historic water levels at Iraq reservoirs and dams

  • Weeks of rain compounded by melting snowcaps in neighboring Turkey and Iran have almost filled Iraq’s four main reservoirs

SAMARRA, Iraq: Water levels in Iraq’s reservoirs and dams have reached historic heights, officials have told AFP, with thousands of families facing possible displacement by more flooding.

Weeks of rain compounded by melting snowcaps in neighboring Turkey and Iran have almost filled Iraq’s four main reservoirs and swelled the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

In Samarra, north of Baghdad, water is being diverted into the natural reservoir at Tharthar Lake in amounts unseen in decades, said dam chief Kareem Hassan.

“Today, the Tharthar barrage is seeing the highest levels of water passing through in its history,” Hassan told AFP.

“We haven’t seen such levels pass through the structure since it was founded in 1956, so 63 years.”

The Dukan dam in the northeast also “had not witnessed water levels this high since 1988,” said manager Hama Taher, calling on people living nearby to leave.

Authorities have said the excess will be stored in reservoirs ahead of expected droughts during blistering summer months, and have pre-emptively restricted farmers from planting crops that need high amounts of water.

The water arriving at Tharthar is gushing south from Iraq’s largest reservoir in Mosul, currently holding 9 billion cubic meters of water — some 2 billion short of capacity, the Water Ministry has said.

The high levels have put two bridges linking the banks of Mosul under water, leaving truck drivers stranded with goods on either side.

“We have officially told kiosk owners and residents to get away from the banks,” said Hussem Al-Sumaidai, who heads civil defense operations in the broader Nineveh province.

Water levels in Mosul were also blamed by some for last month’s ferry drowning that killed more than 100 people.

Further south, villages and surrounding fields have been flooded, sending farmers into a frenzy.

More than 8,000 hectares of agriculture have been flooded in the small village of Huweidi in Basra province alone, according to its mayor, Mohammad Nasseh.

Hundreds of families were displaced in the southern province of Missan, with another 2,000 possibly forced to flee soon, the UN has said.

The UN has had to deliver humanitarian aid by boat in some areas due to flooding, it said on Wednesday.

Despite reassurances by the Iraqi government, the high levels have sparked concern among observers including environmental scientist Azzam Alwash.

The Mosul dam was built atop a bedrock of gypsum, a mineral that dissolves in water. That foundation requires regular cement injections to prevent cracks in the gypsum from expanding.

“If the bedrock settles as a result of cavities, that settlement will translate into damage to the core of the dam which cannot be undone and can possibly lead to catastrophic consequences,” Alwash told AFP on Thursday.

“If the dam fails when it’s full, the area will be under five meters of water,” he said.


UN begins evacuating refugees from Libya to Niger

Updated 5 min 9 sec ago
0

UN begins evacuating refugees from Libya to Niger

  • The renewed fighting has killed over 200 people and left more than 900 wounded
  • Dozens of women and children were among those evacuated on the UNHCR flight that landed in Niger early Friday morning

GENEVA: The UN said Friday it had evacuated 163 refugees from war-ravaged Libya to neighboring Niger, but more than 3,000 others were still trapped in detention centers affected by clashes.
The move marked the first evacuation of refugees and migrants out of Libya since fighting escalated in Tripoli two weeks ago, the UN refugee agency said.
“Given the situation in Libya, humanitarian evacuations are a lifeline for detained refugees whose lives are in jeopardy in Libya,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
The operation came as fierce fighting continued between forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar and those backing the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
The renewed fighting has killed over 200 people and left more than 900 wounded, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
More than 25,000 have been displaced, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Dozens of women and children were among those evacuated on the UNHCR flight that landed in Niger early Friday morning.
They had all been held in detention centers near the frontlines of the conflict.
UNHCR said it had previously relocated many of them from the Abu Selim and Ain Zara centers to its Gathering and Departure Facility (GDF) in the center of the capital.
In all, it said, it had relocated 539 refugees from several detention centers near the immediate fighting zone.
But it said more than 3,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in detention in areas where the fighting was raging.
The agency said it remained “extremely concerned” for the safety of those who remain “trapped inside detention centers and exposed to violence.”
Grandi meanwhile hailed Niger for welcoming the refugees and urged other countries to follow suit.
“Niger’s solidarity in receiving these refugees is world-leading and exemplary, but Niger cannot do this alone,” he said.
“There must be shared responsibility and we need other countries to come forward to lend a hand and help bring vulnerable refugees out of Libya to safety.”
UNHCR issued an urgent appeal to the international community to find solutions for all the trapped and detained refugees in Libya.
Among other things, it said there was a need for evacuations and humanitarian corridors to allow refugees in its GDF in Tripoli to find safety abroad.
It also said new such spaces were needed, since the facility had only limited capacity.