Why Iraq’s great rivers are dying


This is the Shatt al-Arab. The river that winds through the city of Basra,
here, in Southern Iraq. It was once one of the most important waterways
in the Middle East: Here lies the great port of Basra, at the
cross-roads of the world’s trade. It fed dozens of canals throughout Basra and earned the city the nickname, The Venice of
the Middle East. It made Basra the symbol of Iraq’s growth
and prosperity. Today it’s the second largest city with over
4 million people. And with these oil fields and the only deep-water
port in the country, it’s also the economic center. About 80% of Iraq’s revenue comes from here. But this is what Basra’s canals look like
today. In the summer of 2018, they were choked with
debris, raw sewage and rotting garbage that was poisoning the city’s residents. About 100,000 people were hospitalized because
of water-related illnesses. Basra now represents a crisis that’s been
looming over Iraq for decades: The country is running
out of water. That’s because it neither controls the flow of its rivers, nor has the infrastructure to clean them. It’s standing in the way of Iraq’s recovery. “The waters of the two great rivers, Tigris and the Euphrates, are indeed the waters of life.” Almost all of Iraq’s water comes from two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Which run down most of the country then converge here to form the Shatt al-Arab before emptying
into the Persian Gulf. Along the way these rivers provide drinking
water to these cities and irrigate farms and marshlands here. The rest of the country is mostly desert. A vast network of infrastructure is used to
generate power, distribute the water, and clean it. That includes Dams, canals, and water treatment
facilities. But this system is delicate. Anything that affects the amount of water
flowing down these rivers or the infrastructure around it can have massive consequences. Over the last few decades, both have taken a hit. Iraq relies heavily on these rivers, but it
doesn’t control them. Both rivers begin in Turkey. About 71% of Iraq’s water comes from there,
while Syria and Iran add another 10% as the rivers move south. Which means 81% of Iraq’s water is controlled
by its neighbors. And they’ve been keeping more and more of it for
themselves. Since the 1970s, Turkey has built at least
20 dams on the Euphrates and the tributaries that feed it, including the Ataturk dam – the
5th largest in the world – to provide electricity and water to its growing population. Syria has built several dams too. Both countries are holding the river hostage. Today, only a quarter of the Euphrates’ normal
flow reaches Iraq. The same thing is happening on the Tigris. Turkey is building a number of dams here,
including the Ilisu dam. When it was close to completion in 2018, it
blocked so much water that residents all the way down in Baghdad could cross the Tigris
by foot. To make matters worse, many of the tributaries
that feed the Tigris begin in Iran. And there, they’ve built 600 hundred dams
in the last 30 years and dozens are under construction. All of this means that Iraq, the furthest
country downstream, isn’t getting enough water. There’s less to drink, irrigate crops and
generate electricity. It also means the rivers are more contaminated. At a normal flow, water can dilute a lot of
the toxins and sewage that get dumped into the river. But when levels are low, these pollutants become
more potent. Plus, the weaker flow allows salt water to
move upstream from the Persian gulf – which kills fish and crops. All of this puts more pressure on Iraq’s
infrastructure to distribute and clean the water. The problem is – much of this infrastructure
has been destroyed – and Iraq hasn’t been able to rebuild it. There have been 3 devastating wars in Iraq
in the last three decades Just 2 hours ago, allied airforces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. The Gulf war began when Iraq’s ruler,
Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait – a US ally. The US led a coalition to retaliate with airstrikes. “We are determined to knock out Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb potential, destroy his chemical weapons facilities. Much of Saddam’s
artillery and tanks will be destroyed. But they also bombed Iraq’s infrastructure. Including 4 hydro-electric dams. Which in turn, disabled the water treatment
facilities that relied on electricity. A sewage treatment plant in Baghdad was also
bombed – causing sewage to flow into the Tigris – poisoning the water supply for Southern
Iraq. This UN report said the war reduced [Iraq]
to the “pre-industrial age” and that the country would face a “imminent catastrophe”. Saddam survived the war, but the UN imposed strict sanctions, freezing Iraq’s bank
accounts and restricting what it could import. Including construction supplies and water
purification chemicals. Then Saddam made things even worse. In 1993, he was fighting rebels in these marshlands. Despite the post-war water crisis he weaponized
the water here by diverting the rivers away from the marshes. Over the years, this whole area was drained
– and turned into a desert. Thousands reportedly died and at least 100,000
people were forced to leave. By the early 2000s, Iraq’s water supply
continued to shrink while infrastructure failed. Thousands of Iraqi civilians had died from
water-related diseases like cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Then in 2003, the US returned with a full
invasion of Iraq. This time they quickly toppled Saddam’s
regime and installed a “temporary” Iraqi government. But the invasion further damaged the country’s
infrastructure. 40% of Iraq didn’t have access to clean
water. And 70% of the sewage systems needed repair
a few months after the invasion. So the US and Iraqi governments announced
a huge reconstruction plan to rebuild infrastructure. They planned to bring safe water to about
23 million people and triple Iraq’s water treatment capacity. But by 2006 – the program only delivered safe
drinking water to over a third of the people it intended to. And Iraq’s water treatment capacity was
still an eighth of the program’s goal. Millions of dollars were lost because of mismanagement
and corruption. Reconstruction was a failure. “Meanwhile in Iraq tonight, more deadly violence in what appears to be a concerted effort to spark a new civil war there. “Inching toward a new civil war, many fear.” “Falling apart. The government is collapsing, the violence is starting. “We’re seeing all the symptoms of the civil war in Iraq starting up again.” By 2011, Iraq was still unstable when the
US pulled out its remaining troops – creating a dangerous power vacuum. Which was quickly filled by a violent extremist
group called the Islamic State. Their tactics deepened Iraq’s water crisis further. They advanced down the two rivers capturing
strategic points, taking control of Iraq’s water supply, and turning it into a weapon. Like this dam in Ramadi: “Controlling the dam, cutting the water, flow, cut supply to the pro-government towns downstream, making it easier for ISIS to attack. Water the ultimate weapon, in this blistering desert.” ISIS also poisoned water-supplies with oil,
here in the city of Tikrit. And destroyed most of this barrage in Fallujah.
By 2018, ISIS lost most of the territory it controlled, but the damage to Iraq’s water
was already done. If the country was going to recover – it had to rebuild this system, and fast. So the Iraqi government announced a massive
$100 billion dollar reconstruction effort in 2018. But by the summer, the water crisis came to
a head at the southern tip of the country, in Basra, where the river was dangerously
low and toxic. Deadly riots erupted in Basra. Government buildings were burned and many
called for the Prime Minister to resign. Despite being the economic center of Iraq,
Basra had been ignored and left to deteriorate. The Iraqi Commision of Integrity, which investigated
corruption found that: 13 water desalination plants that had been
donated to Basra in 2006 never opened. About $600 million was pledged for water projects
that were never completed. And Basra’s sewage network was supposed
to receive a multi- million dollar upgrade in 2014, but it was still leaking into the Shatt al-Arab in 2018. Despite the uproar against corruption and
lack of public infrastructure, Iraqis continue to suffer. Year after year, the water crisis has gotten
worse. And Basra, once a symbol of growth and prosperity,
has come to represent Iraq’s biggest battle ahead. If the country wants to rebuild, it first
needs to stabilize Basra. And bring clean water to its people.

100 thoughts on “Why Iraq’s great rivers are dying

  1. Thank you for watching today's Vox Atlas! I wanted to leave a note about our process since so many of you have asked. First of all, yes, Atlas takes a TON of research and reporting. Thankfully I have a talented team of journalists beside me to make it all possible.

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    There's a lot more to making an Atlas video which I'm more than happy to talk about! If you have a question, just leave a comment reply here.

    -Sam

  2. Turkey only cares about Turkey! Iran only cares about Iran! Too many humans on earth!
    Birth Control!

  3. The US and Saudi Arabia had it all planned out to destroy Iraq -Iraq could be a thriving country like Israel it has so much historical value in history it’s actually the holy place that’s where Abraham was born!

  4. It's coming to pass it's in his holy word commands principles judgements covenant revelation

  5. Revelation 16:12-13 King James Version (KJV)

    12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

    Repent and come to Jesus Christ we are at the end, He is coming

  6. الله واكبر عاش العراق ونشالله موعدنا يوم25.. 10…. 2019

  7. Wow what a tragedy, Here's hoping Iraq can surmount it's difficulties and prosper again. Good luck to Iraq from Ireland

  8. What about biodiversity? I'm sure humans where not the only one suffering this dramatic lack of water.

  9. God told me that without these 2 rivers that ușe to flow thru the Garden of Eden the whole ecosistem îs incomplete. He told me these rivers ballance the whole Earth.

  10. Did these problems existe under sadam ?
    Or are they a consequence of the US invasion ?

  11. The drying out of river Euphrate was a prophecy in Islam as one of the many signs of nearing end of time.

  12. Thats what you get for breaking apart countries (Ottoman Empire) and drawing borders with a ruler.

  13. Why is that when its US it was an invasion by US troops but when it comes ISIS it was said that extremist and violent but in fact the consequences on Iraq and its people were the same destruction devastation poverty killings of innocent civilians civil war what was the difference then why ISIS was introduced terribly not the US however to me there’s no difference…..both were violent and extremists…..

  14. US needed to be punished and sanctioned because of their violation law of war. US is the evil of the 20-21 century.

  15. So it's Iraq's fault for building too many dams and the United states fault for destroying infrastructure and leaving

  16. Some of us Iranian Arabs are effected aswell as we share have of the shatt al Arab and my army town is literally connected to the river

  17. Honestly, watching vox videos really reiterates how were are living during the collapse of this planet. If this beautiful planet somehow manages to survive through these times… in years to come, people will look back on these times so see how we destroyed our earth. And there is only one single human trait which is to blame for what we have done. GREED.

  18. Because what Prophet Muhammad (SM) has said is going to be happened… A hill of Gold 🥇 will arise from the River… Then fight will start….

  19. The two rivers will dry up, revealing the great riches lying beneath the bed, it's a news told by Prophet Muhammad SAW already. You can disbelieve, but you can't stop it

  20. Ita totally thier fault. They failed to unite against corruption. And ISIS does the rest.

  21. There should be restriction on countries upstream on building dams, and also the US strategically destroyed the country.

  22. Shame on Islam and their extremist ideology for destroying such a beautiful country

  23. so the 4 angels in Revelation chapters can be released so the armies of the east can enter Jerusalem

  24. When the last river is poisoned it is too late! Well we can all learn a thing or two about this and how important a healthy environment is to society!

  25. Turkey is using the most expensive oil in the world. Because of this we have to decrease our oil consumption. Without this dams 84 million Turkish people must be live without electricity. Without this dams our agriculture and our industry dead. So there's nothing to do…

  26. thank you for making this video, all these things happened to iraq because of the weak and unpatriotic government creatd by corrupt parties. america must pay for it and trurkey and iran took advantage of the chaos in iraq. iraq is the key for middle east stability. now there are protesters in most of iraq cities they are out facing snipers and iranian backed militias because they want thier country to be a better place for living for thier sons.

  27. It's a total mess, Radical ideology, Civil war Sunni -shia, Invasion, Curruption, Need good leaders and should keep eye on Radical islamism. Never think to invade others or interfere in others matters.
    The problem in entire Arab world is , they need whole world to be Muslims and follow Sheria law. They don't respect other religions. That's how they always create Enemies.

  28. Our country government is corrupt thiefs bad leaders people wish if saddam was alive again

  29. Doesn't Turkey realize they are basically responsible for killing so many Iraqi citizens because they're hogging the water? Can't the international community put pressure on Turkey be less selfish?

  30. World war 3 is coming, repent to THE LORD JESUS CHRIST or you will go into eternal fire whether you believe in it or not!

  31. The reason for this poor situation in Iraq is the Iranian incursion into it after the fall of President Saddam Hussein

  32. And who is hear after reading about the signs of day of judgement?

    The sign specifically says that the river Euphrates will dry up because of the evil people. And the drying river will uncover a mountain of Gold and 99 of every 100 people will fight for it…. and good people should not go for it.

    The end is near.

    May God bless the people with right kind of guidance.

  33. America the great destroyer who should be held accountable !
    How to you Justified bombing water treatment plants or power plants not near the War zone

  34. There will be a lot of gold when it dries up then the people will fight over the gold

  35. Iraqis : 24 million of you..can you not start cleaning up your river?
    The world are willing to help but remember "God will not change anyone who does not want to change themeselves"

    Please start doing something. Same goes to other Islamic war torn countries..if Nabi Muhammad is here, he'll ask us to start working immediately.

  36. Everything they want to blow up and destroy and the worst part they draggin it to Africa 🤦🏿‍♂️

  37. the end result means less population of humans in the region……arab humans to be specific

  38. Rivers in America are dying.. I live in Kansas. And the Kansas river is so polluted from nitrogen, from our large commercial farming, that you cant eat more than "1" fish per year.. according to our government recommendations.. most of the wells near the river are poisonous too.. full of nitrogen.. but, the farmers get a pass.. and everyone looks the other way.. pffttttt…

  39. Israeli enterprises developed a way to reduce the cost of desalination by 61%. If Iraq had any sense, it would get its fresh water from the sea.

  40. Bless you all in Iraq…..I cannot imagine what it’s like to be in your shoes.

  41. A US ally or An US Ally ?? The English I learnt says that put an before Vowels correct me if I am Wrong plss coz it will be a New Thing for me to Learn.

  42. Arab countries always played in the hands of Americans arab people has understand they need sovereignty new form of governments who care their people more scientific thinking less dependence on oil and petroleum more on other economic resources

  43. This is why trump ask U. S soldier to strike iraq and iran
    Because of those arab country is very near to gold moutain

  44. One of the america's strategy in iraq destroy it, occupy it, steal gold on it…

  45. prophet Mohammad SAW said this river have mountain of gold and will appear one day …that why u.s need this country

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