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
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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.


Arab League chief warns no Middle East peace deal without Palestinian state

Updated 3 min 29 sec ago
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Arab League chief warns no Middle East peace deal without Palestinian state

CAIRO: The head of the Arab League warned Monday that attempts to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict will be in vain without the establishment of a Palestinian state on all territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s comments appeared directed at a still unpublished peace plan that Donald Trump has dubbed the “deal of the century.” As part of the plan, a US-led conference will be held next week in Bahrain on proposals for the Palestinian economy.
The Palestinian leadership is boycotting the conference, saying Trump’s peace plan is likely to be heavily weighted in favor of Israel and to quash their aspirations for statehood in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
While the precise outlines of the draft plan have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on it say it jettisons the two-state solution.
“Whatever is rejected by the Palestinian or the Arab side is unacceptable,” Aboul Gheit said during an event at the Arab League.
“What is acceptable from our side as Arabs as a solution is the establishment of a Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital,” he added.
Aboul Gheit said that Israel’s acceptance of an Arab Peace Initiative drawn up by Saudi Arabia in 2002, which offers Israel normal ties in return for withdrawal from territory captured in 1967, was the only acceptable solution for Arab states.
“If (Israel) chooses the only reasonable and accepted way from our side as Arabs, which is the establishment of a Palestinian state ... it will be accepted in the region as a normal regional partner,” he said.
Last week, a White House official said Egypt, Jordan and Morocco planned to attend the Bahrain conference.
Palestinians urged Egypt and Jordan to reconsider their attendance at the US-led conference in Bahrain, voicing concern it would weaken any Arab opposition to Washington’s coming peace plan.