Water Crises in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan Region (1)
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Paper submitted to EMA conference in Hamburg-Germany-18May2014( 2)
By: Saladin Perababi
Iraq is located in an area historically called Mesopotamia´-or-the land between two rivers (Tigris and Euphrates). The abundant of water of these rivers and of its branches was the fundament which abet the appearance of the oldest human civilizations in the history i.e., Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylon as well as Islamic Caliphate of Abbasids, with an estimated population at this time much more bigger than the population nowadays. Currently Iraq is today among theses countries facing crises because of imbalances between the supply and demand of water. This fact is regarded as one of the most important barriers of its economic development.
Actuality of water Issue in Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR)
Iraqi Kurdistan (IK) is located in North of Iraq, its boundary is with Turkey in the north, Iran in the north east & east, Syria in the west, in the south with Iraq as is shown in the following map.
IKRs total area is around 40000km², and actually comprises three governorates (States) with total inhabitants of 4.8 million. Erbil (the capital of the region) with 1.85 million inhabitants, Sulaymania with 1.950 million and Duhok with 950 thousand. The Topography of the region is varied. Starting with extreme high mountains about 3700m (over see shore) it is followed by the semi hilly area. The south of Erbil, Sulaymania and Duhok which constitutes the major arid arable land of the region is specialized in the production of Wheat and Barley. But with lacking enough water resources and continuous rainfall the productivity is low.
The average temperature in the mountains and in the hilly area is moderate. In summer around 30°C decreasing down to freezing temperatures in winter. But in the plateau area south of the major cities – in comparison to the rest of Iraq - the temperature rises especially in summer in July and August up around 48°C.
• The main resources of over ground water in Iraq are the Tigris- Euphrates river system, which is essential for the viability of the country. But –as the river is supposed to carry in rainfall season from January to April forty times more water than in the months between June and December – it can become even a threat if it remains at a lower level. The rainfall, as the second main water source (average 400 millimetres in optimal season) is seasonal and irregular as mentioned above. Even in the secured and semi secured rainfall areas of mountains and hilly sub region of IK - which offers with less than 10% of Iraqi area the-limit-ed arable land it deviates from one year to another .The remaining space in the south of the main cities of Kurdistan especially from Erbil till ulterior Fau in south of Basra - is an alluvial plain and desert in the west. There the majority of arable land and animal husbandry as the biggest cities and the major economic activities of the population are located The underground freshwater which is mainly concentrated in IK supplies the inhabitants and the production of summer crops in the region.
Main Features of Iraqi and IKR water crises
Iraq is a rich oil country in the world, it offers the second world reserve after Saudi Arabia and abundant other natural resources including water. But with the three previous decades facing a growing water shortage it threatens not only its economic development, but also supplies a rapid increase of demand. The reasons for that water supply shortage are as following:
-;- Lack of appropriate laws for regulating water issues.
-;- Political instability and long period of war damaged water-irrigation, drainage and recycling systems.
-;- Bad management of water resources and lack of new investment and new Technology.
-;- Superannuated water distribution instillations causing in waste of qualified water, as well as the danger of pollution.
-;- Lack of strategic plans in general and of investment in particular to ensure the best mobilizing, utilizing, conserving and developing of water resources and its optimal use for household and production requirement.
-;- No existence of any recycling systems of soiled water in the whole Iraq. Even the only one in Baghdad- Rostamia is out of use because of war and ignorance.
-;- -Reiteration of draught seasons for long periods is one of the reasons of low level of over and under ground water resources.
-;- The main rivers of Iraq and their effluents are arising from the north, north west and east of the surrounding countries. Theses countries are also affected by rapid increase of water demand. The construction of big water damps like the huge damp projects of Turkey are following their idea of economic development processes. Ensuring through it the full water supply for themselves they cut off the minimum requirement of Iraqi needs.
Water demand explosion
Iraq never have seen the balance between demand and supply of water since the establishment of first new Iraqi Government 1920 until now, the main factors of recent demand explosion of the water are:
1- High rate of population growth of 3%. In IK the incremental growth rate culminated in big metropolitan cities around 5% because of immigration from the other parts of Iraq and from abroad, and as a result of a rate of high security, active reconstruction movement and business opportunities.
2- High rate of GDP and per capita income because of permanent increase of oil production and its price.
3- High rate of urbanization and the arbitrary expanding urban area neglecting any structure´-or-plan entails the demand of all kind of infrastructure including the supply of water
4- High rate of pure sweet water consumption due to agriculture, industry and other kind of production and services. Because of the absence of grey-water sources and water recycling treatment it is the only possible source of water supply in this country.
5- The expanding summer crop production - especially in IK – leads to an increase of the irrigation depending on underground water. With the irrigation systems being superannuated a high percentage of the available water is wasted.
6- Unconsciousness and low awareness of major peoples behaviour toward rational use on the one hand and on the other hand the lack of appropriate fee´-or-price system defined by the government.
A1. Amelioration of water management system through:
-;- Issuing new laws and rules filling the gaps and resolving the weakness of the current guidelines.
-;- Reorganizing of Public Authorities who are responsible for water management and its development, it is necessary to benefited from the experience of developed countries.
-;- Implementing the national water policy and strategy aiming to the development and rational utilization of water resources.
-;- Conducting permanent survey and researches to reconstruct changes concerning the water-situation – its availability and the rate of its loss. Establishing a modern Data Base which should be annually updated.
- Advancing the skills of the Cadres to enable a better handling of new technologies and
Systems i Unconsciousness n the future.
2. Developing an irrigation network system to guarantee sufficient accommodation of farms and new irrigation technologies and water saving systems inside the farms and improving the farmers` skills to enable them using theses systems.
3. Locating more investment fund to replacement old network of water installation by modern one
4. Observing the amount and quality and level of over- and underground water and to take every necessary chance in account to sustain the sources.
5. Investing in the establishment of new recycling plants to forestall water of all sources from draining away. Such plants have economic and environment utility.
(1)International conference concerning water crisis in Middle East