Conflicts of River Euphrates
In Western Asia, the longest river is the Euphrates, which originates in eastern Turkey. The river flows via Syria and Iraq joining Tigris at Shatt al-Arab. Euphrates sources include river Murat us and Kara Su where they meet in Turkey a place called Kepan. The primary contributor to river Euphrates is Turkey that supplies a total flow of 89%. It is preceded by Syria amounting to 11% of the Euphrates’ flow.
The Figure shows that 89 percent of the total flow from the Euphrates is supplied by Turkey becoming the main source contributor to the river. Syria becomes the second contributor to the river flow.
A study conducted in the year 2012 proposed that the Euphrates is responsible for the surface water resources totaling to 70% and the total renewable water source amounting to 50% in Syria. Both the cities of Aleppo and Salamiyah entirely depend on water from the Euphrates to cater for the needs of its residents. The number of settlers of the city that the river supplies to is about 300,000 people inclusive of its suburbs (Schlosser, 2010).
The country is located in an arid region that experiences very low rainfall thus making the country to depend fully on surface water emanating from Euphrates and Tigris. In Iraq, 35 percent of the water sources is from the Euphrates.
The declining infrastructure together with increasing demand has reduced the ability of the country to effectively manage the water sources. For instance in a 43-day span in the year 1991 munitions amounting to 130,000 tons were dropped destroying infrastructure and causing a damage of worth $ 232 billion in comparison of Iraq with other riparian states, Iraq has the highest consumption of water per capita by a substantial margin. It is because of the widespread presence of certain factors such as poor infrastructure, large areas of agriculture and out-dated ways of doing agriculture and irrigation and also the intensive cultivation of crops.
Hydro-engineering Projects in the three riparian states.
The three riparian states are planning to construct 19 hydropower plants and 22 dams on the core River and its tributaries. By the end of 2014, 80% of the hydroelectric power and dams totaling to twelve were being completed. The government annually expects a rise in water demand from fifty billion cubic meters (m3) in the year 2012 to 112 billion cubic meters in the preceding years (2023). The prediction of the surface water will amount to 95 billion cubic meters of the total while the neighboring countries will give 3 billion m3 and ground water will account for a total of 14 billion cubic meters.
Syria capacity of water storage is expected to be 14 billion m3 while, in Iraq, the Hadithah Dam, which is the main dam on the Euphrates, has a storage bulk of 8.5 billion m3. The government of Iraq is planning to establish and construct additional 27 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. These dams have been entrusted by the state to increase the storage capacity of the water from 115 billion to 145 billion cubic meters. The water will be useful in the production of hydroelectric power and irrigation in the land.
Euphrates flow changes
Water that is used in countries such as Syria, Turkey, and Iraq for agricultural purposes is approximately 75-80 %. Iraq’s flow fell intensely from 700m3/s to the current level of 260 m3/s since Syrian and Turkish dams came into operation in the year 1970. Furthermore, pressure from the surface water usage, immense exploitation from the ground water has drastically exhausted Iraq and Syria reserves over the last ten years. Due to the new era of technology, the changes have been observed by the use of NASA and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) Satellites images which indicate exhaustion of ground water levels underneath since January 200 3 to December 2009 (Schlosser, 2010). The subsequent fastest rate of regional groundwater storage loss in the world is Tigris and Euphrates basin. India has the highest rate of loss of groundwater storage in the world.
Quality of water
In Syria and Iraq, the quality of water is deteriorating to being saline in certain regions superfluous than dual the natural level. The main cause of this deterioration is infiltration of irrigation water into the river. Infiltration of irrigation water has caused the release of hazardous chemicals into the river such as pesticides and fertilizers. Irrigation drainage volume has immensely increased changing the flow of river Jallab from erratic to continuous. This has adversely affected the quality of water by increasing the levels of salinity by about 13 % to its normal levels.
The lower portion of the Euphrates basin has alarming levels of salinization. In the year 1995, the reported amount of salt washed into the Persian Gulf is about 17 million tons. This was through the Third River; a man-made drainage canal that was designed to retrieve water that has been affected by salinity (Schlosser, 2010). In southern Iraq, the salinity level in Hindiyah Barrage rose to a minimum of four times. This level of saline water in an area is deliberated unfit for agricultural irrigation and unsafe as drinking water for animals. River Shatt al-Arab water in Basrah and Nasiriyah is becoming more saline as the seawater has intruded the Gulf.
Lowering of the quality of water has threatened the ecosystems of rivers. This has a disastrous effect on the productivity of agriculture in Iraq and Syria. Governorates of Iraq have been a victim of farm losses, the death of animals and diseases caused by poor sanitation.
Universal threat due to Climate change
Climate change effects are likely to add pressure in future on river Euphrates. Models of climate indicate that as the century ends the river basin temperature will increase from 3-4%. This will in return escalate the evaporation rates and would result in 30-40% rainfall drop around the river basin. An increase in evaporation aggravates the drop of the river flow. Water Foundation that conducted regional studies around Turkey claimed that Turkey is not fit for a profitable research organization. The research indicates that by the year 2020 the flow of the river in Turkey will fall by 15-20% in comparison with the regular levels that were established in between 1960 and 1990. Adverse causes in fall of precipitation have been noted at all weather stations across the basin of Euphrates. As a result, the Euphrates tributaries in Syria have contributed to less flow of water into the main river than in the ancient. This has led to drop in total contribution from 8-5% since 1980 to hitherto.
Challenges of demography
In the ruling of the Ottoman Empire, the total population of Iraq, Syria and Turkey was fewer that of Istanbul. Meanwhile in 1923, the population of the region increased to 130 million which lead to progression of water competition. The annual rate growth of the population dropped to 1.3%, but the population of the country would exceed to 86 million by 2030 as stipulated by the UN (Schlosser, 2010). There is expected a rise of the population of Syria and Iraq to a total of 79 million having the growth rate of between 2-2.5%. Due to the increase projection of conflict may arise in the region causing death and migration resulting in many refugees in the land of Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, which are the neighboring countries. This was reported by UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, in February 2015 that the Syrian refugees who fled to the neighboring countries amounted to 3.8 million people. In late 2014 the refugees from Iraq who were fleeing ISIS and the violence in the sectors region were numbered over 100,000 in Turkey and Jordan the numbers that rapidly grew were over 10,000.
ISIS and its use of water as a weapon
In the year 2013-2014, fundamentalist group ISIS undertook total control of the water-storing, flow control and structures to regulate the Euphrates in both Iraq and Syria. Since early 2013, Isis seized control of the largest dam Tabqah; the main storage of water and regulated the flow of the body on the Syrian part of the Euphrates. Since that time, the level of the water behind the dam plummeted dramatically. This has reduced the water intake of Aleppo and parts of the governorate of Raggah thereby inhibiting a number of Syrians about five million access to safe and healthy water. This has led to the great accusation that Turkey is thought of preventing the flow of Euphrates at Jarabus. ISIS is also termed to have deprived the Aleppo’s governorate of access of water as a punishment for not respecting and recognizing the authority of the ISIS (Schlosser, 2010).
They even threatened them by placing a bomb on the body of the dam to detonate them if they gain access to it. The body ISIS was feared among the governments of both Syria and Iraq as this would cause deaths of many lives. Detonating or destroying the dam would release a large flow forming a flood wave of about 11 million cubic meters of water. This wave would sweep the territories of Iraq destroying the cities as it flows and causing the death of approximately three million. This would be fatal and tragedy upon the country of Syria and Iraq. Fallujah regulator located in Iraq is controlled by the ISIS. The military group has used the regulator to stop the flow of the river, depriving the southern residents of water while the upstream cities are flooding with water inclusive of Abu Ghraib. This incident clearly illustrates that the military group ISIS can use the water as a weapon.
The infrastructure of a river has been in the headline and the primary focus in dire need for international intervention in the skirmish. There arose a fierce battle in August 2014 about the Mosul Dam, which is located in northern Iraq on the Tigris River.
This was as a result of Isis having attempted to take control of the dam, and they were resisted by both the airpower of US and forces of Kurdish Peshmerga on the ground. President Barack Obama justified the air strikes in his writings to Congress, affirming: ”The failing Mosul Dam could endanger the lives of masses of civilians, endanger United States personnel and facilities, for instance, the United States Embassy in Baghdad, and bar the Iraqi government from availing critical services to the Iraqi populace.” The Iraqi army together with Peshmerga forces recaptured the Mosul Dam complex on 17th August 2014, with immediate support of airstrikes by US fighter jets, drones together with bombers to help in bringing the conflict to a dead end. At the juncture of writing, there was fighting still going on between the Iraqi army and the ISIS in the locality surrounding the Hadithah Dam (Schlosser, 2010). The hadithah dam is second largest in production and generation of electricity in Iraq, and it is the dam that is second largest on the Euphrates. At that time of writing security forces from Iraq had successfully attempted and managed to hold back the ISIS.
Every form of political disorientation causing political fracas as a form of addressing the urgency of human needs must be apprehended. A functioning group of professionals should be set up from both internally and external to the riparian state to vividly and keenly monitor every occurrence distressing the uprightness of river Euphrates. The groups of professionals are also responsible for advising humanitarian agencies and authorities on matters such as failure in sanitation, the supply of water and sudden water release from dams.
A formal committee of the river should be put in place when the political status about the region has improved. These bodies are responsible for bringing together researchers, policy makers and a variation of parties engrossed with an embryonic obligation that would help in building trust among all the riparian’s thus increasing the management capacity. Committee’s work could have the following priorities that include:
Establishing a database comprising of all water-related disputes, agreement and merging the entirely reliable and available river’s hydrology information and meteorology in every state.
The water needs and proposed demands of the states should be defined respectively with a primary aim of pinpointing the areas that need to be perfected in efficiency.
Adopt a more durable resolution on the sharing of the water instead of concentrating on the flow division. This would in turn make an initiative to lay emphasis on mutual responsibilities and definite progressions for calming tension and havoc and adopt ways of resolving a dispute.
Establish and install a system for warning any change of climate that might currently occur along the Euphrates and be able to devise ways to curb either flooding or famine that may be as a result.
Promote regional venture in the GAP, would be helpful in lightening the concerns of sponsors in both Iraq and Syria.
Nurturing a wider interdependence among the states as these would lead to export of good such as oil and gas from Iraq in exchange for hydroelectric power from Turkey. Also, food trade would be among the three countries.
Legislation on Water usage and its management in all riparian states should be revised to homogenize best practice and regulations. The limitations that are given to enforce rulings in the three riparian countries and the pragmatism may command such efforts to be guided by principle relatively than the use of a letter of the law internationally.
Schlosser, N. (2010). The battle for Al-Qaims and the campaign to secure the western Euphrates river valley.
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