September 15, 2009 / 3:43 PM / 10 years ago

Iraq seeks 30-year water plan to fight drought

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq is studying offers from three foreign companies on putting together a strategic 30-year plan for managing its water resources during a lingering and damaging drought, the water resources ministry said on Tuesday.

Water resources director Oun Thiab Abdullah said 15 companies had originally been invited to make submissions for the $50 million project but only three — a British, a Russian and an Italian consultancy — showed interest.

The finalist would be selected in a month, he said.

The plan is intended to help the government set water resource policy for the next 30 years.

“This (study) is important because of the big changes suffered as a result of decreasing water resources,” said Abdullah.

Iraq is mostly desert and its inhabitable areas are slaked by the Tigris, which comes down from Turkey, the Euphrates, also from Turkey but passing through Syria, and a network of smaller rivers from Iran, some of which feed the Tigris.

Several years of severe drought have savaged Iraq’s war-battered and investment-starved farming sector, turning a country that once exported food throughout the region into one of the world’s top wheat and rice importers.

In addition, hydroelectric dams in neighboring countries like Turkey have cut the flow of water down the main rivers, triggering angry protests by Iraqi officials.

The study under tender will guide the government on “how to use the limited water in the best way to confront this decrease and the environmental changes. It is a master plan for Iraq,” Abdullah said.

Reporting by Aseel Kami, Editing by Michael Christie

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