Iraq blames Iran for the drastic decline in river runoff

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DARBANDIKHAN, Iraq: Iraqi officials on Tuesday warned of a drastic decline in water flow in a river coming from Iran due to low rainfall and the construction of dams in the neighboring Islamic Republic.

The Sirwan River begins in Iran and flows to the Darbandikhan Dam in northeast Iraq before flowing through the rural Diyala Province and joining the Tigris. “There has been an unprecedented decline,” said Rahman Khani, the dam’s director. “The water level has dropped 7.5 meters in one year.”

The decline was attributed to low rainfall and “more dams being built in Iran to hold back water,” he told AFP. Khani said the dam held 900 million cubic meters of water this year – a fraction of the annual average of 4.7 billion cubic meters.

The drop has resulted in a 30 percent drop in electricity production from the dam, he added, warning of the impact on agriculture in Diyala province. Iraq, which makes much of its electricity dependent on Iran, has suffered from extreme water shortages in many areas in recent years.

This is in large part due to the dam construction in Iran and Turkey, but also due to factors related to climate change and droughts that have affected the entire region. The situation has prompted Iraqi Water Resources Minister Mahdi al-Hamdani to ask his government to file a complaint against Iran with the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry did not want to comment. Aoun Thiab, a senior advisor to the water ministry, said Iran was violating international law “by diverting a river,” based on the 1997 UN Convention on the Use of Water Crossing International Borders.

Thiab admitted, however, that the search for justice was “a political, not a technical decision.” “The water in the Sirwan River has been completely cut off,” he told AFP.

Iran also has its own drop in water levels due to drought, according to a report from the country’s space agency quoted by Mehr news agency. On Tuesday, an official said Tehran was facing the worst drought in 50 years when he reported a 97 percent decrease in monthly rainfall compared to last year.

There has been 0.4 millimeters of rain in the Iranian capital since September 23, compared with 14.3 millimeters in the same period in 2020, said Mohammad Shahriari, deputy director of the company that supplies the region.

“Groundwater and surface water are in critical condition and there has not been a comparable drought in the last 50 years,” he is quoted by the Iranian news agency ISNA. Deadly protests broke out in drought-stricken southwestern Chuzestan province in July after people took to the streets to vent their anger over water shortages.


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