Iraq warns Turkey intends to build new dam on Tigris River

"This project we fear more than Ilısu Dam," an Iraqi water resource ministry official said, referring to the Turkish dam that submerged the ancient Hasankeyf town and substantially decreased Iraq's water supply.
The Ilısu Dam on the Tigris, Mardin province, southeastern Turkey, Dec. 24, 2020. (Photo: AA)
The Ilısu Dam on the Tigris, Mardin province, southeastern Turkey, Dec. 24, 2020. (Photo: AA)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources warned on Sunday that Turkey intends to build a new dam on the Tigris River, exacerbating a water shortage problem downstream.

The statement came only two days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially inaugurated the controversial Ilısu Dam, which has a storage capacity of 11 billion cubic meters.

Related Article: Turkey starts filling dam that Iraq says will cause major water shortages

Activists protested the filling of the dam since it would, and eventually did, submerge residential areas and archeological sites in the 12,000 year-old-town of Hasankeyf and substantially decrease Iraq's water supply.

"The Turkish side intends to implement the al-Jazira Dam project on the Tigris River," Kadhim Sahar, an official at the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, told the official Iraqi News Agency.

"This project we fear more than Ilısu Dam," Sahar added, noting that the latter is a hydropower dam, meaning the water reserve is periodically released. But, he explained the al-Jazira Dam would be for irrigation.

This "poses a danger because [the dam] will retain Iraq's small share of [Tigris'] water if it is implemented without an agreement between the Turkish and Iraqi sides."

"The Iraqi-Turkish agreements under the bilateral memorandum of understanding are still in force,” Sahar said.

Related Article: Turkey will allow 'fair and equitable' water flow to rivers in Iraq, per new MoU: Minister

He explained that though the Turkish government has "assured" Baghdad that the new dam would not affect Iraq's share of Tigirs' water, the Iraqi government remains skeptical.

"We are frankly nervous because political promises are not always implemented."

Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, suffers from an early drought that has caused an overall decline in water levels in lakes and rivers.

Experts have suggested that the Kurdistan Regional Government and the federal government of Iraq must work together to reach a consensus with neighboring countries, namely Turkey and Iran, on an equitable way of sharing water from the Tigris and Euphrates basins.