Turkey halts filling Tigris dam after Iraq complains of water shortages

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File photo showing the Tigris river flows through the ancient town of Hasankeyf, which will be submerged by the Ilisu dam in southeastern Turkey, September 27, 2017. (Reuters)
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File photo showing on going construction work on the Ilisu dam in southeastern Turkey, September 27, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 07 June 2018

Turkey halts filling Tigris dam after Iraq complains of water shortages

  • Turkey has been heavily criticized over its water policies and their impact on the environment as thousands of villages were submerged among them a 12,000-year-old town
  • Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.

ANKARA/BAGHDAD: Turkey has temporarily stopped filling a huge dam on the Tigris River after complaints from neighboring Iraq, which is suffering water shortages, officials said on Thursday.
Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad and Iraq’s water minister also said that the two countries had agreed that when Ankara resumes filling the Ilisu dam in July it will still allow sufficient water to flow into Iraq.
The dam, more than 20 years in the making, will generate electricity for a large area of southeast Turkey. But it has been heavily criticized over its impact on the environment and on the tens of thousands of villagers who will be displaced. Its waters will also submerge a 12,000-year-old town.
Turkey started filling the Ilisu dam last week, prompting deep concern over water shortages in Iraq. Ankara had already delayed the planned start by three months at the request of its southern neighbor.
Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Fatih Yildiz, said on Twitter that Turkey stopped filling the dam on President Tayyip Erdogan’s orders to address Iraq’s worries.
“As of this moment, Tigris waters are being transferred to Iraq without touching a drop of it in Ilisu,” Yildiz said. “With the second decision to postpone, we have shown once again that we can put our neighbor’s needs ahead of our own.”
The filling will resume on July 1, he said, adding that water will still flow into Iraq in accordance with agreements between the two countries.

“GIGANTIC PROJECT“
Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources Hassan Al-Janabi said Iraq had asked for the postponement and that the two countries had agreed on a way to fill it while still allowing adequate water supplies to Iraq.
“We asked them to postpone until the end of June. Turkey agreed and we were very happy,” he told a news conference in Baghdad. “The way the dam gets filled is very important...and we found a filling method that guarantees Iraq’s interests.”
Around 70 percent of Iraq’s water resources flow from neighboring countries, especially in the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers which run through Turkey.
The dam, which first got Turkish government approval in 1997, is a key part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, designed to improve its poorest and least developed region.
But Western export credit insurers quit the project saying it did not meet international standards on the environment and preservation of cultural heritage. The government later secured credit from three local banks to continue construction.
Erdogan said in an election rally two weeks ago that the 9 billion lira ($2.00 billion) dam, which he described as a “truly gigantic project” would start generating electricity next year.
Once it is filled, Ilisu will completely or partially flood 199 villages and the 12,000 year-old town of Hasankeyf, which is home to 78,000 people, according a report from a campaign group, The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive.
Hasankeyf was used by the Romans as a fortress to ward off Persians. The town was later destroyed by Mongols and rebuilt in the 11th century by Seljuk Turks. Some of the ancient structures have been moved to a nearby area.
($1 = 4.4950 liras) (Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen Editing by Dominic Evans and Andrew Heavens)


Algeria to go the polls on December 12, says interim president

Updated 15 September 2019

Algeria to go the polls on December 12, says interim president

ALGIERS: Algeria — whose president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April following mass protests — is to hold a presidential election on December 12, his interim successor announced Sunday.

"I have decided... that the date of the presidential election will be Thursday, December 12," said Abdelkader Bensalah, who is precluded from standing himself, in a televised address.

The announcement comes after army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah, seen as the strongman in Algeria since the fall of Bouteflika, insisted that polls be held by the end of this year, despite ongoing protests demanding the creation of new institutions ahead of any elections.