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A dam threatens to swallow farmland in drought-hit Iraq

Al-MESSAHAG: Jamil Al-Juburi, 53, hasn’t ever left his village in northern Iraq, the place his circle of relatives has labored the land for generations-but a dam will quickly swallow his domestic, forcing them out. Tens of 1000’s of Iraqis are threatened by means of the Makhoul dam, which the federal government hopes shall be operational at the mighty Tigris in 5 years. “I used to be born right here and I grew up right here,” stated Juburi, whose village of Al-Messahag is ready in pasture land at the banks of the river.

“It’s tough to depart for in other places. This can be a entire previous that we go away at the back of us.” As soon as the dam is erected, Juburi’s entire area shall be below 3 billion cubic metres (105 billion cubic ft) of water. In a rustic extremely liable to local weather change-and buffeted by means of 3 consecutive years of drought-authorities have defended the venture, which can spice up water retail outlets and assist save you shortages.

On the other hand, activists decry the affect on greater than 30 villages-home to about 118,000 people-and the threats to biodiversity and archaeological websites. Hired at a state-run oil refinery, Juburi leaves his sons to paintings the circle of relatives land, the place they plant wheat and citrus bushes. He would agree to transport, he stated, to position “the nationwide hobby above private hobby”-on situation that the dam “will serve Iraq” as a complete. Juburi additionally demanded “good enough damages” to be able to safeguard his and his circle of relatives’s long run.

‘Serious danger’

Iraq already has 8 dams, nevertheless it complains that building of the amenities upstream, principally in neighboring Turkey, has impacted its river volumes. Plans for the Makhoul facility can also be traced again to 2001, within the twilight of dictator Saddam Hussein’s rule. His downfall in a US-led invasion and chaotic next profession noticed the venture shelved for years. Paintings in any case were given underway in 2021, with drilling, soil research and a bridge spanning the river.

SALAHEDDINE: Building automobiles function at the web site of Makhoul dam venture at the Tigris river, close to the village of Messahag in northern Iraq’s Salaheddine province.- AFP

Riad al-Samarai, deputy governor of Salaheddin province, lists a 250 MW hydroelectric energy plant and an “irrigation canal that can serve agricultural spaces and give a contribution to the country’s meals safety” as some of the venture’s advantages. “The general public hobby calls for the development of this dam to ensure water reserves for Iraq,” he stated. 5 villages are positioned at the web site of the longer term reservoir, he added, and “a fee has been shaped by means of the provinces and related ministries to verify good enough damages for citizens” and to relocate them. However civil society is up in hands, no longer simplest concerning the human affect.

There also are repercussions for natural world, warn environmental teams Save the Tigris and Humat Dijlah, who say the traditional town of Ashur-a UNESCO international heritage site-is additionally in peril. In August, the Global Group for Migration famous that “there was no authentic try to talk or have interaction” with native communities. “Respondents who’re farmworkers and landowners noticed Makhoul Dam as a serious danger to their livelihoods,” IOM stated in a file, sharing the findings of a learn about by means of Iraqi organisation Liwan for Tradition and Building.

Loss of believe

“No one has come to look us. No one has requested us anything else,” stated Jamil’s father, Ibrahim al-Juburi, who’s in his 80s. “My ancestors, my father, then I, all stayed on this area,” the farmer stated, his frame hunched. Liwan researcher Mehiyar Kathem stated the actual downside was once the “relief of water this is coming in” from upstream past Iraq’s borders.

“Iraq doesn’t desire a new dam,” he added. As an alternative, “the Tigris must stay flowing” as a result of the rise in salinity. Kathem additionally pointed to the affect on prone women-led families. “There’s a upper collection of women folk within the house who depend at the agriculture and at the land. We don’t know what will occur to female-headed families.” The learn about discovered that 39 villages-each domestic to between 200 and eight,000 residents-risk being submerged.

Consistent with Liwan, 67 sq. kilometers of “fertile farmland, estates and orchards” will even disappear if the Makhoul dam reaches complete capability, and greater than 61,000 farm animals must be “offered or relocated”. “The dam can disrupt the on a regular basis lifestyles of a few 118,412 folks,” stated Liwan, noting an “absence of believe with decision-makers” some of the native communities. Citizens “frequently said that any expression of discontent with Makhoul dam would fall on deaf ears, and their voices could be disregarded”, it added. – AFP

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