Iraq Blames Iran for Drying of Alwand River, May Turn to UN

Iraq, BAGHDAD

The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources is accusing neighboring Iran of using the Alwand River in a way “that harms Iraqi interests.”

Iraqi water officials say Iran has established a number of projects on the river that negatively affect the flow of water into Iraqi lands.

According to Kurdistan media outlet Rudaw (28th August), Iraqi Trade Minister Dr. Khairullah Babekir refused to sign an agreement with Iran last week in protest of their drying of the river.

“Iran has been abusing Alwand River of late, and this is detrimental to Iraqi agricultural lands,” said Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohannad al Saadi. 

“Iranian authorities did not tell us the reasons behind cutting the river’s waters. The Iraqi foreign ministry has requested explanations from the Iranian foreign ministry,” he added.

According to Iraqi officials, Iran completely cut off water supply from the river as of last month.

The issue has been raised in vain during joint meetings, al Saadi said.

Alwand River is one of the 30 tributaries of the Tigris originating in Iran. Decreasing water levels in the 50-kilometer-long river have caused destruction of large areas of agricultural land in the city of Khanqin.

Iraqi officials say Iran built many dams on those tributaries and changed their course, thus depriving Iraq of its share of water.

The Iraqi government in May established a higher water council to manage the country’s national and regional water resources. The new council is charged with drafting a national water resources strategy.

It is also expected to adopt policies aimed at pressuring Iran, Syria and Turkey to “respect Iraq’s water rights,” according to officials. 

One of the options the new body will consider is bringing Iraq’s water disputes to international organizations.

Iraq could turn to the United Nations to get “its fair share of water from upstream countries.”

Meanwhile, al Saadi revealed last week that the ministry is studying the possibility of hiring foreign companies to develop a plan for the country’s water resources.

“Like many Arab countries, we will seek the expertise of specialized foreign companies,” he said.

Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki had also recently suggested hiring a foreign company to help the country with water resources management.

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