Minister: Iraq to face severe water shortages as river flows drop

Minister: Iraq to face severe water shortages as river flows drop
The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are Iraq’s main water source and essential to for agriculture. (File/AFP)
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Updated 17 July 2020

Minister: Iraq to face severe water shortages as river flows drop

Minister: Iraq to face severe water shortages as river flows drop
  • The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are Iraq’s main water source and essential to for agriculture
  • Measurements of inflows from the border with Turkey in northern Iraq were 50% below average this year, Iraq’s Water Resources Minister Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani said

DOHUK, Iraq: Iraq’s minister of water resources says his country will face severe water shortages if agreements are not forged with neighboring Turkey over Ankara’s irrigation and dam projects that have decreased river inflows to Iraq’s parched plains.
Descending from the mountains of southeast Turkey and coursing through Syria and then Iraq before emptying out in the Arabian Gulf, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are Iraq’s main water source and essential to for agriculture. But tensions have mounted over the years as Turkey pressed ahead with dam projects to meet its domestic electricity demands.
In turn, this has directly impacted water flows into Iraq.
Measurements of inflows from the border with Turkey in northern Iraq were 50% below average this year, Iraq’s Water Resources Minister Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani said in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday. This year also saw a reduction in annual rainfall by 50% compared to last year, he said.
“We asked our Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send an urgent message to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to ask them what is the reason for the drop in our flow,” he said.
Iraq is still waiting for a response, he added.
With the impacts of climate change, as well as future hydroelectric projects in Turkey, the ministry estimates Iraq will face a shortage of 10.5 billion cubic meters of water by 2035, according to an internal study, Al-Hamdani said.
Ordinary Iraqis have yet to fill the effects of the drop, partly because of the reservoir at the Hadhitha dam on the Euphrates River in Iraq, which is compensating for the shortage, he said.
In Fishkhabour, along the border with Turkey, Ramadan Hamza, a senior expert on water strategy and policy at the University of Dohuk, eyed the drop in river flows with concern.
“The water level of the Tigris River was around 600 cubic meters per second,” he said. After Turkey built the so-called Ilisu Dam, “it dropped to around 300-320.”
The Ilisu Dam on the Tigris, part of a megaproject by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is at the heart of the dispute. The dam, which became operational in May after three years of delay, is to be one of 22 power dams in southeastern Turkey. Negotiations over water allocations resumed when Ankara began to make progress on plans to fill the Illisu reservoir last year but have since stalled.
Hezha Abdulwahed, the director of Dohuk’s water department, said water levels had dropped by 8 billion cubic meters, compared to water flows in April 2019.
“Iraq needs to put pressure on Turkey to release its share of water,” Hamza said.
A recent report by the UN’s International Organization for Migration found that water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates are decreasing at an “unprecedented rate,” that could result in the forced displacement of entire Iraqi communities.
Water shortages, pollution and high levels of salinity lead to many Iraqis falling sick and prompted violent protests in the summer of 2018 across southern Iraq.
Many letters were sent to Ankara over its plans for the Ilisu dam, said Al-Hamdani, but Turkey only responded with “many excuses.”
“They say it’s their right to build a dam and we argue that it is is harmful to our rights to water,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic postponed a face-to-face meeting with Turkish officials. The Iraqis have requested a video conference in the meantime to revive talks. Last year, an envoy of Erdogan came to Baghdad with an action plan to improve data sharing and management of water resources.
A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk to journalists, said negotiations to ensure a certain amount of water allocations to Iraq are difficult because of climate change issues.
At one point, Iraq demanded Turkey ensure at least 500 cubic meters per second. “But inside Turkey, the Tigris sometimes doesn’t go above 350 on average,” he said. “It’s hard to speak about certain limits of water — it’s so unpredictable now.”
In the absence of an international agreement, it also unclear what responsibilities Turkey has toward Iraq’s water supply. But Al-Hamdani said there are international laws Iraq could turn to if needed to pressure Ankara.
“Turkey’s position will change,” Al-Hamdani said on a hopeful note.


Iran says it produced 6.5 kg of uranium enriched to 60%

Iran says it produced 6.5 kg of uranium enriched to 60%
Updated 40 min 55 sec ago

Iran says it produced 6.5 kg of uranium enriched to 60%

Iran says it produced 6.5 kg of uranium enriched to 60%
  • Government spokesman said the country had also produced 108 kg of uranium enriched to 20% purity
  • Tuesday's disclosure came as Tehran and Washington hold indirect talks in Vienna over the nuclear deal

DUBAI: Iran has made 6.5 kg (14 lb) of uranium enriched to up to 60%, the government said on Tuesday, detailing a move that rattled the country's nuclear talks with world powers by taking the fissile material a step towards nuclear weapons-grade of 90%.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei was quoted by state media as saying the country had also produced 108 kg of uranium enriched to 20% purity, indicating quicker output than the rate required by the Iranian law that created the process.
Iran said in April it would begin enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move that would take the uranium much closer to the 90% suitable for a nuclear bomb, after Tehran accused arch-foe Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear site.
Tuesday's disclosure came as Tehran and Washington hold indirect talks in Vienna aimed at finding ways to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Iran’s hardline parliament passed a law last year to oblige the government to harden its nuclear stance, partly in reaction to former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Trump’s withdrawal prompted Iran to steadily overstep the accord’s limits on its nuclear programme designed to make it harder to develop an atomic bomb - an ambition Tehran denies.
"Under parliament's law..., the Atomic Energy Organization was supposed to produce 120 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium in a year. According to the latest report, we now have produced 108 kg of 20% uranium in the past five months," Rabiei was quoted as saying.
"In the area of 60% uranium production, in the short time that has elapsed..., about 6.5 kg has been produced," Rabiei added.
A quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities by the U.N. nuclear watchdog in May said that, as of May 22, Tehran had produced 62.8 kg of uranium enriched up to 20%, and 2.4 kg of uranium enriched up to 60%, with the next level down being enriched to between 2% and 5%.


Rights groups urge UN probe mission for Beirut port blast

Rights groups urge UN probe mission for Beirut port blast
Updated 15 June 2021

Rights groups urge UN probe mission for Beirut port blast

Rights groups urge UN probe mission for Beirut port blast
  • Human Rights Watch said the call was made in a joint letter by over a hundred Lebanese, regional, and international groups, individuals and survivors and families of the victims

BEIRUT: A group of international and regional rights groups on Tuesday urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council to establish an investigative mission into last year’s massive deadly blast at Beirut’s port.
Human Rights Watch said the call was made in a joint letter by 53 Lebanese, regional, and international groups and individuals, as well as 62 survivors and families of the victims.
HRW said it documented many flaws in the domestic investigation of the explosion — including flagrant political interference, lack of respect for fair trial standards and violations of due process.
Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate — a highly explosive material used in fertilizers — had been improperly stored in the port for years. The chemicals ignited in the catastrophic Aug. 4 blast that killed 211 people, injured more than 6,000 and damaged entire neighborhoods.
It still remains unknown what triggered an initial fire at the warehouse that then caused the explosion and who was responsible for storing the rotting fertilizer there since 2014.
“Lebanese authorities have had over 10 months to demonstrate that they are willing and capable of conducting a credible investigation,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But they have failed on all accounts,”
Six days after the blast, the Lebanese government referred the Beirut explosion to the country’s Judicial Council, a special court with no appeals process. No indictments have been issued so far.
In December, the prosecutor probing the blast filed charges against the caretaker prime minister, Hassan Diab, and three former ministers, accusing them of negligence that led to the deaths of hundreds of people.
Two months later, the judge in the probe was replaced following legal challenges by two former Cabinet ministers he had accused of negligence.


New Israel government faces early test with far-right march

New Israel government faces early test with far-right march
Updated 15 June 2021

New Israel government faces early test with far-right march

New Israel government faces early test with far-right march
  • Jewish ultranationalists prepared to march into annexed east Jerusalem
  • Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned it as a provocation

JERUSALEM: Israel’s fledgling new government faced an early test Tuesday as Jewish ultranationalists prepared to march into annexed east Jerusalem, stoking tensions the UN has warned threaten a fragile Gaza cease-fire.
Rallies by far-right Jewish groups in Arab neighborhoods have raised tensions in recent months, prompting a police intervention in the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound that triggered the deadliest flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2014.
The so-called March of the Flags, which celebrates the anniversary of Israel’s 1967 occupation of the city’s eastern sector, was originally scheduled for last Thursday but was delayed due to Israeli police opposition to the route and warnings from Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
The former government of veteran premier Benjamin Netanyahu put off the march until Tuesday, a decision confirmed late Monday by the incoming government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“The right to demonstrate is a right in all democracies,” said Internal Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev.
“The police is ready and we will do everything in our power to preserve the delicate thread of coexistence.”
Organizers consulted police on the best route for the march that begins at 1430 GMT to avoid friction with Arab residents, the government said.
But Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned it as a provocation.
“We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying power’s intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem tomorrow,” Shtayyeh tweeted in English.
He said it was “a provocation and aggression against our people, Jerusalem and its sanctities that must end.”
The new Israeli premier is himself a Jewish nationalist but the coalition he leads also includes centrist and left-wing parties and, for the first time in the country’s history, an Arab party.
The support of the four lawmakers of the Islamic conservative Raam party was vital to the wafer-thin majority that the government won in a historic confidence vote that unseated Netanyahu on Sunday.
UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland urged all sides to behave responsibly to avoid damage to a hard-won May 21 cease-fire that ended 11 days of heavy fighting in and around Gaza.
“Tensions are rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile & sensitive security & political time, when UN & Egypt are actively engaged in solidifying the cease-fire,” Wennesland said.
“Urge all relevant parties to act responsibly & avoid any provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation.”
The US embassy called on its staff to avoid entering the walled Old City in the heart of east Jerusalem because of the march and “possible counter-demonstrations.”
Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem since the Six-Day War of 1967 is not recognized by most of the international community which says the city’s final status should be a matter of negotiation between the two sides.
The Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
The iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the heart of the Old City is Islam’s third holiest site and a national symbol for all Palestinians regardless of religion.
It is also considered by Jews to be Judaism’s holiest site but by longstanding convention Jews are not allowed to pray inside the compound and visits by Israeli Jewish politicians often trigger disturbances.
When the march was originally announced for last week, senior Hamas official Khalil Hayya warned it could spark a return to violence like that of May 10-21.
“We warn the occupation (Israel) against letting the march approach east Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque compound,” Hayya said.
“We hope the message is clear so that Thursday doesn’t become (a new) May 10.”
Last month’s conflict started after Hamas issued a deadline for Israel to remove its security forces from flashpoint areas of east Jerusalem, and then fired a salvo of rockets at Israel when the ultimatum went unheeded.
Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip between May 10 to 21 killed 260 Palestinians including some fighters, the Gaza authorities said.
In Israel, 13 people were killed, including a soldier, by rockets fired from Gaza, the Israeli police and army said.


UAE imposes new COVID-19 measures for charter flight passengers from India and Pakistan

UAE imposes new COVID-19 measures for charter flight passengers from India and Pakistan
Updated 15 June 2021

UAE imposes new COVID-19 measures for charter flight passengers from India and Pakistan

UAE imposes new COVID-19 measures for charter flight passengers from India and Pakistan
  • Passengers must wear tracking devices for a minimum of 10 days in a new circular from the General Civil Aviation Authority
  • Those who arrived in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah, have already been given the devices

DUBAI: The UAE has imposed new coronavirus measures for charter flights arriving from countries including India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Nepal and Uganda.
Passengers must wear tracking devices for a minimum of 10 days in a new circular from the General Civil Aviation Authority.
Those who arrived in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al-Khaimah, have already been given the devices, travel agencies and charter flight operators confirmed, local daily Khaleej Times reported.
Abu Dhabi has also been requiring arriving passengers to wear the devices during their 14-day home quarantine, since September of 2020.
Arrivals must also take a PCR test after landing in the country followed by two other PCR tests on the fourth and eighth day of their isolation period.
In Dubai, travelers have to isolate for 10 days and undergo a PCR test, Raheesh Babu, group COO of Musafir.com, an internet travel agency, said.
Crew members operating from the listed countries are also required to abide by the new regulations.
Passengers must also quarantine in a hotel during the transit period, and are only allowed movement when transferring between the hotel and the airport, without being in contact with people in the UAE community, the circular said.


Shoukry visits Qatar to convey message from El-Sisi

Shoukry visits Qatar to convey message from El-Sisi
Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah (R) meeting with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Doha on June 14, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

Shoukry visits Qatar to convey message from El-Sisi

Shoukry visits Qatar to convey message from El-Sisi
  • Shoukry will attend the first meeting of the Palestine Committee

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry arrived in Doha on Monday to convey a message from President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the positive developments in Egyptian-Qatari relations following the signing of the “Al-Ula reconciliation agreement” on Jan. 5.
It also expressed Egypt’s aspiration to take further measures to advance the priority areas of bilateral cooperation to achieve the interests of the two countries and their people.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in a statement that Shoukry will take part during his visit to Doha in the consultative meeting of Arab foreign ministers, which will be held at the invitation of Qatar — the president of the current session of the Council of the Arab League — to resume coordination and consultation on the current situation in the region, and ways to strengthen joint action mechanisms regarding the growing challenges facing Arab countries.

HIGHLIGHT

Shoukry will also participate in the ministerial level extraordinary meeting of the Arab League Council to discuss developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue, which will be held at the request of Egypt and Sudan following the consultative meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

Shoukry will also participate in the ministerial level extraordinary meeting of the Arab League Council to discuss developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue, which will be held at the request of Egypt and Sudan following the consultative meeting of Arab foreign ministers.
He will also attend the first meeting of the Palestine Committee.
A meeting is also scheduled with Shoukry and Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.