[size=30]What will happen to Iraq's economy without the Tigris and Euphrates?
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Yes Iraq: Follow up
Once again, an international party is sounding the alarm about the dangerous decline of fresh water in Iraq. A recent World Bank report warned that water resources in this country, which is the cradle of Mesopotamia civilization, are heading to a decline of up to 20 percent by 2050 if the phenomenon of change continues. The current climate, which is accompanied by a decline in rain and a rise in temperatures.
What this will mean, according to the report, will deprive one-third of the currently irrigated lands of their water share and decrease the GDP by 4 percent at a time when the population, which currently stands at about 40 million people, will double. For millions of these, this drought means a decrease in the demand for employment by at least 12 percent in agricultural activities, and the forced displacement of about 7 million people, whose livelihood and income have been agriculture and water until now. In this context, the Iraqi Ministry of Environment recently announced that Iraq has become the “fifth country in the world” most affected by climate change.
Drought forces Iraqi farmers to migrate their lands
And if climate changes have to do all this to Iraqi agriculture and local production, how about the effects resulting from blocking and cutting off the largest part of Iraq from the waters of the Tigris, Euphrates and other rivers coming from Turkey and Iran, which constitute a source of more than 70 percent of Iraq’s water wealth? The reason for this cut is not only due to the Turkish and Iranian irrigation projects and dams, but also to the political pressures that both Ankara and Tehran want to exercise on Baghdad. Which finds its reflection in the rejection of Iraq's legitimate demands to maintain the flow of its water and vital shares for the life of the population, agriculture, industry and other sectors. Here, the Turkish leaders have come to deny the international character of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and claim the right to Iraqi oil in exchange for Iraq's right to the waters of the two rivers!
The two Turkish dams, Ataturk on the Euphrates and Ilisu on the Tigris, in addition to the Iranian project that diverted the Karun River from the Shatt al-Arab, are among the most dangerous projects mentioned. These projects deprive Iraq of the bulk of its water wealth through the ages, ie more than 45 billion cubic meters of water annually. Iraq had financial surpluses before the completion of the mentioned projects, but their completion and the start of filling dams and other dams have so far led to a decline in agricultural land and crops by rates ranging from 30 to 60 percent, in addition to the salinization of the Shatt al-Arab water and the shortage of drinking water and vital water reserves.
In light of this, more than one international body, including the European Water Organization, warned that Iraq may lose the waters of the two rivers in 2040 if things go as they were during the past thirty years. And if this frightening scenario happens, Iraq's fertile lands may become an extension of the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, according to Dr. Shaker Al-Makhzoumi, an academic specializing in atmospheric physics and former director general of the Iraqi Meteorological Authority.
Iraq and its inability to confront the imminent danger
The question that arises here: What is official Iraq doing to confront the imminent disaster? In fact, successive Iraqi governments have so far done nothing more than to protest and send delegations to Turkey in an attempt to persuade it to let the waters flow, and in some cases have succeeded. However, according to Makhzoumi, the Iraqi authorities generally neglected Iraq's water rights, which are sanctioned by bilateral agreements and international laws and norms. The latter states that countries from which international rivers originate do not have the right to dispose of the flow of water to the detriment of existing and older projects for the cultivation and life of the inhabitants of other countries involved in the river's course. This right confirms that the civilization of Iraq is based on the waters of the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, thousands of years ago, that is, before the establishment of the Ottoman Empire and its successor, the Turkish state.
The marshes region in southern Iraq is a rare wetland in the middle of a sea of surrounding deserts, fed by the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Because of the geographical location, drought is often a problem in Iraq, but the lack of rain, political rivalries and the establishment of dams in the upstream areas of Turkey exacerbated the situation and made it more dangerous than at any other time.
In addition to neglecting water rights, Iraq possesses an economic pressure tool that has not been activated so far, in a way that pushes both the Turkish and Iranian governments to change their positions towards recognizing its water rights. This means is that Iraq is one of the most important foreign markets for Turkish and Iranian exports. In 2020, for example, Iraq imported more than $8 billion worth of goods from Turkey, the majority of which are consumer goods such as food and clothing. As for Iraqi exports, the majority of which are oil, their value in the same year amounted to $9 billion, which means that 5.4 of Turkey's imports come from Iraq and about 4 percent of its exports go to the promising Iraqi market, which is one of the largest markets in the Arab world. As for Iran, Iraq has been a major commercial outlet for it over the past years, in light of the Western sanctions that have been imposed on Tehran. Iraq can use the aforementioned means of pressure in order to take into account its interests and historical water rights.
Neglect, miscalculation, and the worst case scenario
Meanwhile, at a time when water sources are dreadfully declining, their waste continues to be infrequent. This waste comes as a result of outdated water infrastructure and poor maintenance for many reasons, most notably the failure to take the danger of that seriously, and the rampant corruption in government institutions, in addition to terrorism that spread havoc in many areas, especially Mosul and its surroundings. As a result, it came to the point of warning that the huge Mosul Dam would collapse if it was not maintained as soon as possible. As for the irrigation and drinking water networks, which in turn suffer from neglect, the waste in them ranges between 40 to 50 percent, according to official estimates.
The World Bank report says that Iraq needs $180 billion over twenty years to modernize the infrastructure, including dams and irrigation projects necessary to ensure its water security, which means that it needs to pump $9 billion annually for this purpose. However, what was allocated to the ministry concerned with this matter, namely the Ministry of Water Resources, did not exceed $15 million in 2018. So far, there is no indication that this policy has changed significantly. Meanwhile, instead of paying attention to alternative water projects that preserve the rest of the water wealth, for example, by preventing losses in networks and spreading drip and sprinkler agriculture instead of flood irrigation, the news is talking about focusing on searching for more oil and gas and increasing dependence on Their revenue is more than ever. It is worth noting that this is happening at a time when there is a lot of talk about the end of the oil age and the depletion of its reserves by the fifth decade of this century.
Iraq today stands at a crossroads regarding water resources. It owns huge oil revenues that bring it at the present time more than 7 billion dollars every month, according to an average price between 75 and 80 dollars per barrel of oil. Allocating a significant amount of these revenues to irrigation and drinking water projects on the basis of their renewal and preservation of their strategic reserves would ensure water security, without which there is neither food security nor life in a country that depends on water revenues from outside its lands. Otherwise, Mesopotamia will reach a day when the oil and water will run out, and then the worst case scenario will be for a country that could have been one of the richest and most prosperous countries in the world in light of its enviable natural and human wealth until now.
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