Nature Iraq’s CEO Azzam Alwash visited SUEN

Azzam Alwash, founder and CEO of Nature Iraq (a nongovernmental agency that works to protect, restore and preserve Iraq’s natural environment and is the recipient of the 2013 Goldman Prize for excellence in protecting the environment) paid a visit to SUEN.

Alwash explained the current water situation in Iraq, the restoration efforts for the Iraqi marshes, the status of the Mosul Dam and shared his views about establishing a cooperation between Iraq and Turkey on the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin.



Iraq's water should be stored in Turkey


Drawing attention to the fragility of the Mosul Dam due to the dissolution of gypsum at its foundation, Alwash noted that in the event of collapse, the result will be a tsunami-like wave that will flood Baghdad and submerge lands as far south as Basra, threatening the lives of about 1 million people. As presented in his paper titled "The Mosul Dam: Turning a Potential Disaster into a Win-Win Solution" published by the Wilson Centre, Alwash explained his idea for cooperation that calls for the decommissioning of the Mosul Dam and storing water in the mountainous regions of Turkey. Alwash advocated that instead of investing $3 billion to repair the Mosul Dam, this would be a wiser option to turn this disaster risk into a win-win solution for Iraq and Turkey. Stating that storage of water in Turkey’s narrow and deep valleys would lead to decreased loss of evaporation, which would save 1 billion cubic meters of water per year and make more water available downstream, Alwash recorded that Iraq might pay Turkey with oil and gas exports in return and stressed that an oil pipeline that would be constructed from Iraq to Istanbul and from there to Europe would benefit both states’ policies to reduce carbon emission.


Indicating that the risk of the Mosul Dam collapsing should be a trigger to stimulate cooperation between Iraq and Turkey, Azzam Alwash pointed to the lack of trust among the riparian countries in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin. Reminding that the establishment of the European Union was based on the steel and coal trade among the European countries, Alwash advocated that co-dependency and trade between the riparians in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin can be a tool to trigger cooperation.


Identifying the main problems in Iraq as evaporation and salinization, Alwash recorded that the alleged waste of water in Iraq is in fact true, which he attributed to farmers practising traditional irrigation techniques, who are unable to afford new technologies like drip irrigation or simply do not wish to employ them.


Azzam Alwash stated that coordinated management of water can lead to better-integrated management of other resources in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin. Pointing at the need for a political will to establish cooperation among riparian states towards integrated basin management, Alwash suggested that the Iraqi and Turkish academics should first work together to evaluate ambitious alternative solutions and develop economic models to demonstrate that such a cooperation can actually pay off.

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