Turkey reneging on pledge to boost water supplies-Iraq

Thu Sep 3, 2009 7:39am EDT

Related Topics


* Iraq says region needs coordinated water policy

* Agriculture, environment at risk

* Syria also "concerned" by Turkish dams



By Ibon Villelabeitia

ANKARA, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Turkey has failed to meet a pledge to release more water down the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to Iraq, an Iraqi minister said on Thursday, and called for a coordinated water policy in the region.

In June, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said Ankara will guarantee a minimum 400 cubic metres of water per second from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to help its neighbour weather a drought.

But Iraq's Water Resources Minister Abdul Latif Rasheed told Reuters that Iraq was still not getting enough water from Turkey, and said his country's agriculture and drinking water supplies were at stake.

"It isn't happening and we want Turkey to implement that agreement. The amount of water we are getting is fluctuating," Rasheed said on the sidelines of a meeting between Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian ministers to discuss water sharing from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

"The minimum requirement Iraq needs is 600 cubic metres. Sometimes it fluctuates to less than 200 cubic metres. We need two or three times that amount," he said.

Iraq accuses Turkey, and to a lesser extent Syria, of choking the Euphrates with hydroelectric dams that have restricted the flow, damaging the farm sector already suffering from decades of war, sanctions and neglect.

The dispute is a delicate diplomatic issue for Iraq as it seeks to improve ties with its neighbours. Turkey is one of Iraq's most important trading partners.

Turkish officials say flows to Iraq have been decreased by Syria, which also shares the Tigris and Euphrates basin.

But Rasheed said Iraq was getting less water since Turkey began building dams in the southeast of the country under the GAP development project.



"FAIR SHARE"

Rasheed, who said he had brought up the issue with his Turkish counterpart on Thursday, said the region needed to draft a coordinated water policy to cope with the drought.

"We all need to get a fair share. Iraq is a downstream country. Our drinking water supplies, agriculture and electricity depends on how the water resources are managed upstream. We need to manage water properly and come to agreements."

Iraq, which is mostly desert, is in its third year of a drought that has harmed crop yields and reservoir levels.

Turkey says it has occasionally limited the flow on the Tigris and Euphrates to less than 400 cubic metres per second to meet its own needs during extremely dry weather.

Syria's Irrigation Minister Nader al-Bunni said his country was "concerned" about the amount of water that flows out of Turkey and said neighbours sharing the Euphrates and Tigris rivers needed to find a solution that is "sustainable from a social and humanitarian point of view".

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their land in Syria, a major farm commodities producer in the region, due to the effects of the country's worst drought in decades. (Writing by Ibon Villelabeitia; Editing by Diana Abdallah)



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