Iranian Activists Implore UN to Stop Turkey's Damming

The construction of massive dams by Turkey has reduced water flow to Iraq and Syria by approximately 80% and 40% respectively in the past 15 years
Ataturk Dam's reservoir has a capacity of 48 billion cubic meters.Ataturk Dam's reservoir has a capacity of 48 billion cubic meters.

Members of the Iran-based NGO Mianroudan (Persian: Mesopotamia) have started an online petition urging the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to pressure Turkey into abandoning its reckless dam construction.

In the petition, whose text was made available to the media on Tuesday, the group calls on the UN chief to help end Turkey's "destructive" fondness for damming.

They point out that the construction of gigantic structures since the 1970s have led to the drying up of rivers and wetlands in Iraq and Syria, and exacerbated the region's struggle with dust and sand storms.

Houman Khakpour, a natural resources expert and founder of the group, told ISNA that Turkey "has taken advantage of the instability in Syria and Iraq" and does not feel the need "to respect the water rights of these countries".

Since 1975, Turkey’s extensive dam and hydropower construction projects have reportedly reduced water flows into Iraq and Syria by approximately 80% and 40% respectively, according to the independent Australian research institute, Future Directions International.

“In the Middle East, there has been a significant increase in the frequency and intensity of sand and dust storms in the past 15 years,” Enric Terradellas, a meteorologist with the World Meteorology Organization’s Sand and Dust Storm Prediction Center for the region, told BBC News last year.

“One of the main sources of sand and dust storms is Iraq where the flow of rivers has decreased because of the race for dam constructions in upstream countries,” he said, without naming Turkey. Terradellas said this has led to the disappearance of marshes and drying up of lakes both in Iraq and Iran, and the sediments left behind are very important sources of dust in the region.

  20 Provinces Affected

Khakpour said the petition represents people's "demands to end Turkey's greed".

He noted that regional dust storms have afflicted 20 provinces in Iran, impacting two-thirds of our population, calling on Iranians to sign the online petition at Change.org.

"Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates, which was filled up in 1992, has a capacity of 48 billion cubic meters, while Ilisu Dam on Tigris' tributaries, once complete, will hold 10.4 bcm of water," the group says in the petition.

"The destructive consequences of Turkey's damming, including the worsening of living conditions in Iraq and Syria, both of which are embroiled in wars ... [Turkey's damming] is a threat to human rights."

At the end, the group says it wants the UN to help the "worrying conditions" of the communities along Euphrates and Tigris, and revive both rivers by "opening Ataturk Dam and preventing the construction of Ilisu".

According to Mohammad Darvish, an official at the Department of Environment, Turkey’s dam construction has stopped the flow of 38 billion cubic meters of water into Iraq in the past 15 years.

“Iran and other regional countries are not left with much choice but to take legal action,” he said.

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