By shutting a dam on the Euphrates River, Islamic State militants have restricted the amount of water flowing to government-held areas in Iraq’s western Anbar province.
Provincial council member Taha Abdul-Ghani said that the insufficient inflow of water coming through the dam will pose problems for irrigation systems and water treatment plants in areas controlled by troops opposing the militant faction.
Of the dam’s 26 gates, only two or three have been opened by the militants, according to officials and residents.
The Shiite areas in central and southern Iraq will not be affected much by the closing of the dam, said Abdul-Ghani. He added that the water was being passed along to those areas from the Tigris River.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that it was assessing reports claiming that ISIS had gained control and was thereby restricting water flow through the al-Warar dam.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, said, “The use of water as a tool of war is to be condemned in no uncertain terms.
“These kinds of reports are disturbing, to say the least.”
According to CNN, the head of the security council in the town of Khalidiyah, Sheikh Ibrahim Khalaf al-Fahdawi, and two residents of the nearby town of Habbaniya said that the level of water in the Euphrates River had reduced enough to allow one to cross it on foot, thereby making the pro-government towns of Husaybah and Khalidiyah and other large security forces base at Habbaniya accessible to the ISIS.
There is a dire shortage of drinking water for thousands of residents living in government-held towns of Khalidiya and Habaniya as the purification plants along the Euphrates River have been shuttered due to already low levels of water because of the summer weather. Water is supplied through pipes for only two hours a day, Abdul-Ghani said.
According to The Huffington Post, he added, “With the summer heat and lack of water, the lives of these people are in danger and some are thinking of leaving their homes.” He asked the government to deploy air force to release the water by bombing the gates of al-Warar.
Abu Ahmed, a farmer running a vegetable farm near Khalidiya, said the level of water has gone below the level of the water pumping machines; because of the extreme shortage of irrigation water, all his crops would die.
He said, “I used to irrigate my crops every three day. If the situation continues like this, my vegetables will die.”
According to Daily Mail, UN officials planning to launch an operation to aid Iraq called for $497 million in donations for food, water and other supplies that will help the Iraqis suffering from the fighting between ISIS and government forces over a period of the next six months. Officials emphasized that there is a desperate need for resources among the people affected, with over eight million in need of immediate support. Statistics suggest that the number could rise to 10 million by the end of this year.
Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said the aid operation will not be possible if the funding doesn’t come through.
She said, “Humanitarian partners have been doing everything they can to help. But more than 50 per cent of the operation will be shut down or cut back if money is not received immediately.”
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