Saturday, October 23, 2010

Khanaqin dries up

Khanaqin dries up

Two men fish the Alwan River in Khanaqin, which is almost completely dry due to Iranian dams. GLOBE PHOTO/Qassim Khidhir

The Globe - Khanaqin
Ako Muhammed and
Qassim Khidhir

A report of July 2008

Iranian dams produce a major crisis and result in the loss of farms and drinking water.
The Alwan River, which crosses through Khanaqin town north of Diyala province, is completely dry due to the construction of dams by Iran on the Iranian side. The people are suffering a vital shortage of drinking water, their farms are dying, and they have lost a river, which is the symbol of their town.

"For an hour I have been bringing water by pot from the neighbors. We had no water in the house for four days," said Nasreen Murad, a 34-year-old housewife, when we met in front of her old house a few meters from Alwan. "For God's sake, save us?we are dying?dying," she said, adding that they may leave for Baghdad if there are no improvements.

Shamsadddin Shakir Kareem, 49, is no longer able to irrigate his palm, apricot, and pomegranate trees. His and 15 other farms near the Jalewe quarter on the western bank of Alwan are about to dry. There are nearly 70 to 80 farms, mostly of palm trees, around Khanaqin town.

Saving the farm is beyond his financial ability. "Digging a well costs three million dinars and two million are needed for buying a pump. Where can I get it while my income is so low?" asked Kareem, who called on the government for help.

"I have never, ever seen this river dry. It had so much water the children were afraid to swim in it in the 1960s and '70s," stated Abdul-Fattah Ibrahim, 57, a teacher who has lived his entire life in a house facing the river.

The director of Khanaqin water, Fu'ad Kareem, told the Globe that more than half of Khanaqin town, with a population of 50,000, has no water, and he strongly criticized the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for neglecting the town.

The dry Alwan river is killing of a way of life while the government remains inert, claims Khanaqin residents.

He gave three reasons for the town's lack of water. First, there is the lack of government electricity; second, there is a lack of fuel. There are two big electricity-producing generators provided for the town's water project, but there is not enough fuel to work them. Kareem explained that in order to have 16 hours of electricity, 30,000 liters of diesel monthly would solve the water problem in Khanaqin. At this time, they only get enough fuel for 6 hours. Therefore, this has created a water shortage in several quarters, including Tolafrosh, Mazra'a, Krekaran, Karez, Hamidiya, Imam Abbas, Jelewe, Maydan, and others, forcing people to buy drinking water. One barrel costs 10,000 ID.

The third reason is the rivers. The Alwan River has been drained by the Iranian government. As for the Sirwan River, which comes from Darbandi Khan Lake inside Kurdistan Region, it simply can't provide the town with enough water. Sirwan is 400 kilometers from the town and requires a giant water-pipe project to reach the water. The river, which flows from Iran, has been dry since last March.

Kareem said Khanaqin sent a complaint to Iraqi Parliament regarding Alwan River, and an Iraqi Parliament envoy visited Iran to discuss the river crisis recently. After that visit, Iran let water run through the river for 20 days; it has since blocked the river again.

Kareem strongly criticized the KRG. "If the KRG considers Khanaqin as part of Kurdistan Region, it should take care and help the town," said Kareem, who added that no budget has been allocated for Khanaqin.

"We have presented dozens of [service] projects to the KRG to be carried out in Khanaqin, but all were rejected," he said. Only Khanaqin was excluded from a budget allocated by the KRG for solving drought problems in the area, he remarked.

"The Diyala administration doesn't do anything for us; it accuses Khanaqin people of trying to annex Khanaqin with Kurdistan Region," he added. "They [Diyala] tell us that the KRG should help us since we want to become part of Kurdistan."

He asked that the KRG and Kurdistan Parliament find quick solutions for Khanaqin's problems, and at least provide diesel for the two big generators.

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