Iraqi Kurd farmers battle drought as Lake Dukan retreats

Iraqi Kurd farmers battle drought as Lake Dukan retreats
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Iraqi Kurdistan in the north plans to construct new dams but the projects lack any coordination with Baghdad. (AFP)
Iraqi Kurd farmers battle drought as Lake Dukan retreats
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The Dukan dam’s water reserves have fallen by 60 percent compared with last year, and Iraq has been forced to halve the area it devotes to agriculture. (AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2022

Iraqi Kurd farmers battle drought as Lake Dukan retreats

Iraqi Kurd farmers battle drought as Lake Dukan retreats
  • Farms near the picturesque lake but has seen marked changes over the past three years as Iraq suffers prolonged drought
  • The country is classified as one of the five nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and desertification

LAKE DUKAN, Iraq: Farmers in Iraqi Kurdistan seeking to irrigate crops face seeing their economic lifeline slip away as the waters of Lake Dukan recede and dams upstream in Iran stem the flow.
Bapir Kalkani, who is also a trade unionist, farms near the picturesque lake but has seen marked changes over the past three years as Iraq suffers prolonged drought.
“There was water where I’m standing now” in 2019, the 56-year-old said. “It used to go three kilometers (two miles) further, but the level has retreated.”
Sesame and beans are being grown on the plain under a blazing sun, adjacent to the lake which is fed by a Tigris tributary, the Lower Zab river which has its source in Iran.
The large artificial lake was created in the 1950s following construction of the Dukan dam, to supply irrigation and drinking water for the region, as well as to generate electricity.
But for several years both the lake and the river have been shrinking — as have all of the rivers in Iraq.
The country is classified as one of the five nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and desertification.
Its water reserves have fallen by 60 percent compared with last year, the government says.
With rainfall becoming a rarity and after three successive years of drought, Iraq has been forced to halve the area it devotes to agriculture.
“If we hadn’t had a little rain in late spring, there would have been no crops in Kurdistan this year,” Kalkani said.
Farmers in the area used to dig shallow wells fed by the Dukan so they could irrigate their crops. But not any more.
“The wells have lost 70 percent of their water,” he said.
Sesame farmer Shirko Aziz Ahmed had to dig a well several meters deep so he could access water and raise it using a diesel-powered pump.
“Sesame needs a lot of watering, so I’m going to have to dig even deeper as the water level goes down,” he said.
Drought is not the only source of the farmer’s water problems.
Iran has built several dams on the Lower Zab, notably the Kolsa barrage.
“The Kolsa dam has caused at least an 80 percent drop in the water levels” of the Lower Zab, said Banafsheh Keynoush of the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
She said Iran is going through one of the worst droughts in its history and has had to revise its irrigation policy.
“Iran is on a dam-building spree, and many of its dams are small,” she told AFP.
The Dukan dam in Iraq has also been badly affected by the reduced river flow, said its director Kochar Jamal Tawfeeq.
“Now we have only 41 percent, below half of the capacity” of the dam, he said.
It supplies drinking water for “about three million people in Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk,” two major cities downstream, he said.
But at just 300 mm (less than 12 inches) of rainfall last year — half the previous annual average — the skies have not been generous. And Tawfeeq said 2022 is on track to mirror last year’s figures.
“We are releasing 90 cubic meters per second,” the director said. “When the reservoir is full, we release 200 to 250.”
Tawfeeq said farmers were being told “not to grow crops that need too much water.”
He said Baghdad had sent teams to Iran to discuss the reduced flow of the Lower Zab river, but “there’s no cooperation from the Iranians.”
Iran contends its river flow contribution into the Tigris and Euphrates basin is only about six percent, according to Keynoush.
“What Iran is trying to say is: ‘The Euphrates and Tigris problems you have are really between you and Turkey’,” where the two main rivers have their sources, she added.
But Iraq itself is not above criticism, said Azzam Alwash, founder of the Nature Iraq non-government organization and presidential adviser.
Iraqi Kurdistan in the north plans to construct new dams but the projects lack any coordination with Baghdad, Alwash said.
Downstream, in central and south Iraq, the situation is being exasperated by a lack of modernization of water resources and could result in disaster, he warned.


Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum
Updated 8 sec ago

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal launches first edition of Arab Climate Forum
  • AGFUND president says Arab countries are among most vulnerable to climate change

RIYADH: Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal, president of the Arab Gulf Program for Development (AGFUND), launched the first edition of the Arab Climate Forum on Sunday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The forum, titled “Together to Strengthen Civil Society’s Contribution to Climate Action and Sustainability,” will assess the social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change.

Over two days, the agenda will include six axes: Climate change and sustainability, climate change and its impact on the most vulnerable groups, encouraging innovation for the benefit of adaptation and mitigation, climate change and fragile economic activities, integrating citizens and local communities in climate action, and the role of systemic change in green transformation.

As part of the ongoing preparations for COP27 in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh in November, the forum is being held in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Environment, the League of Arab States, AGFUND, the Arab Council for Childhood and Development and the Arab Network for NGOs.

Egyptian Minister of Environment Dr. Yasmine Fouad and Head of Social Affairs at the Arab League Ambassador Haifa Abu Ghazaleh are also taking part in the forum.

In his opening speech, Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal said that the world’s unprecedented climatic phenomena were not a coincidence. He argued that climate change should be fought by increasing the use of renewable energy sources as well as adaptation through proactive transformations.

The AGFUND president added that Arab countries are among the most vulnerable and affected regions in the world as a result of climate change and that effective climate action has become a common moral commitment for all, urging all development parties to take their responsibilities seriously and responsibly in order to keep the planet fit for sustainable living.

He lauded efforts to address climate challenges, including the Prince Talal International Prize for Development 2021, which has four branches dedicated to climate change. He noted that the four winners would be honored at COP27.
 


Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women

Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women
Updated 02 October 2022

Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women

Hundreds protest in Turkey in support of Iranian women
  • In Istanbul, many Iranians were among the hundreds of people who chanted slogans against the Tehran regime and in support of Iranian women
  • Women held red roses, Iranian flags and signs bearing the words “women, life, freedom”

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Turkey on Sunday to condemn Iran’s crackdown on women-led demonstrations sparked by a young woman’s death after her arrest by the country’s notorious morality police.
In Istanbul, many Iranians were among the hundreds of people who chanted slogans against the Tehran regime and in support of Iranian women.
Women held red roses, Iranian flags and signs bearing the words “women, life, freedom,” the battle cry of the protest movement that has rocked Iran and was triggered last month by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd.
In Diyarbakir, a southeastern city with a majority Kurdish population, around 200 people gathered brandishing photographs of Iranian women killed in the crackdown and a large banner with the slogan “women, life, freedom” in Kurdish, an AFP correspondent reported.
A demonstration in solidarity with Iranian women attended by hundreds of people was also held in the western city of Izmir on Saturday evening, according to images published on social media and verified by AFP.
At least 92 people have been killed in Iran since the start of the protests two weeks ago, Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights said on Sunday.


Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city

Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city
Updated 02 October 2022

Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city

Tehran seals border with Pakistan amid deadly crackdown in neighboring Iranian city
  • Iranian state media say five IRGC and Basiji personnel killed in Zahedan
  • Local journalists and activists estimate at least 50 protesters killed by security forces

QUETTA: Iran sealed a main crossing point with Pakistan on Sunday amid deadly unrest and a crackdown on protesters in Zahedan, a southeastern Iranian city near the border.

Violence broke out in the capital of the Iranian Sistan and Balochistan province during Friday prayers, after worshipers in the city’s Makki Mosque called for a protest over the rape of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly by a local military commander.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps provincial intelligence chief Ali Mousavi was shot during the clashes on Friday and pronounced dead at a hospital.

The killing was claimed by the Jaish Al-Adl militant group, which says it is fighting for the independence of Sistan and Balochistan, and greater rights for Baloch people, who are the main ethnic group in the province.

A Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency official told Arab News the border crossing in Taftan, about 90 km from Zahedan, was sealed off by Iranian authorities.

“They are not allowing departure movement from Pakistan into Iran,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“On Saturday, they allowed 780 people, including foreigners who wanted to cross into Pakistan, but on Sunday they completely halted all kinds of trade and pedestrian movement.”

Sardarzada Umair Muhammad Hassani, former adviser to the chief minister of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, said the border closure would affect Iran itself, as food supplies to Iran pass through Pakistan.

“The border closure decision by Iranian forces wasn’t fair in the better interest of Iran,” he told Arab News, adding that he had backtracked on his earlier opinion that Pakistani-Iranian ties should be enhanced, as the killings in Zahedan have affected the Baloch community on the Pakistani side.

“Baloch tribes have been living on both sides of the border,” Hassani said. “The recent brutality toward the people of Zahedan by the Iranian forces has hurt the sentiments and emotions of the Baloch.”

Footage emerging from the city showed people carrying dead and wounded protesters amid heavy gunfire. The administration of Sistan and Balochistan said 19 people have been killed in the clashes, but journalists in the province and activists estimate the number of deaths to be at least 50, as clashes continue.

“According to local media in Zahedan, the death toll has risen to 50, because the majority of the injured who were shot by Iranian forces were being treated in their homes instead of hospitals due to fear of arrest by the Iranian forces,” Asif Burhanzai, a journalist in Taftan, told Arab News.

The Baloch Activists Campaign said at least 58 people have died and 270 have been wounded.

Communication services were down in Zahedan and surrounding areas over the weekend. On Sunday, mobile networks were partially restored, but access to the internet remained blocked.

Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported on Sunday that the number of personnel from the IRGC and its volunteer Basiji force killed in Zahedan had risen to five.

Their deaths, and that of the provincial IRGC intelligence chief, represent a major escalation in the antigovernment demonstrations that began in mid-September, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the Iranian morality police.

The IRGC’s chief, Gen. Hossein Salami, pledged revenge for the killing of its forces.

“We consider revenge for the blood of the IRGC and Basiji martyrs and the people who were victims of the Black Friday crime in Zahedan to be on our agenda,” he said, as quoted by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.

Ongoing countrywide demonstrations have been the largest manifestation of dissent against the Iranian government in over a decade.

Rallies have spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces, with ethnic and religious minorities joining in, despite a violent response from authorities.

With the deaths in Sistan and Balochistan, the number of those killed in the protests is likely to have crossed 100.

On Friday, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization estimated the number of dead to be at least 83. Many more have been wounded and thousands arrested.


Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce

Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce
Updated 02 October 2022

Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce

Yemeni presidential council discusses with UN envoy extension of truce

DUBAI: The Chairman of the Yemeni Presidential Council has met on Sunday the United Nation’s ambassador to Yemen to discuss the extension of the UN-brokered truce.  

The council, led by chairman Rashad al-Alimi, said the Houthi positions are hostile to peace efforts. 

Al-Alimi renewed calls for doubling international pressure on the Houthis. 

The British Ambassador to Yemen said we encourage the Houthis to work with the UN to extend the armistice. 


Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh

Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh
Updated 02 October 2022

Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh

Israeli security forces dismantle cell linked to Daesh
  • Israeli security said the individuals had “met to prepare attacks”

JERUSALEM: Israel’s internal security agency said Sunday it dismantled in the north of the country a cell linked to Daesh, whose alleged sympathizers staged deadly attacks earlier this year.
“Six residents of Nazareth were arrested several weeks ago and interrogated by the Shin Bet on suspicion of seeking to carry out terrorist activities on behalf of (Daesh) inside Israel,” the agency said in a statement.
It added that the individuals had “met to prepare attacks.”
The Shin Bet agency said the probe “highlights the influence of Daesh in Israel.”
In March, four people were killed when a convicted Daesh sympathizer went on a stabbing and car-ramming rampage in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.
Days later, two policemen were shot dead and several others wounded in the northern Israeli city of Hadera, in an attack that was later claimed by the jihadist group.
The Beersheba and Hadera attacks renewed long-standing concern in Israel about Daesh efforts to recruit Arab citizens, who account for roughly a fifth of the Israeli population.