Activists from the Save the Tigris Campaign, Iraqi Social Forum and Humat Dijla were invited to meet with Iraqi Minister of Water Resources, Dr. Hassan Al Janabi, in Baghdad. They discussed shared concerns of civil society and the government on water issues. The minister expressed his satisfaction with Iraqi youth and civil society’s interest in the issue. In an initiative to coordinate regionally the efforts of activists to secure equal shares of future water resources, a regional water forum will be organized in 2018 by the Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign. Al-Janabi expressed his support for this important event, pointing out that the Ministry of Water Resources has established a department for partnership with civil society and communities. The water forum is planned to take place in April 2018, and will be the first one of its kind in Mesopotamia. Regarding the recent visit of Dr. Janabi to Turkey and his subsequent meeting with the Turkish Minister of Water and Forests Dr. Veysel Eroğlu there, Al-Janabi said that this visit was a diplomatic effort of the Iraqi side to guarantee a fair share of water for Iraq as soon as the Ilisu Dam on the Tigris River in Turkey goes into operation. Al-Janabi explained that Iraq will undoubtedly be affected by Ilisu Dam, but he agreed with the Turkish minister to reduce the damage caused by the dam to Iraq to a minimum level and to ensure that Turkey maintains a steady water flow to Iraq. Al-Janabi expressed his satisfaction with the meeting and expressed a positive outlook on the future of the shared water resources of the two countries, arguing that this meeting is more effective than international arbitration.
Activists of Save the Tigris Campaign expressed their concerns of removal of the Iraqi marshes from the World Heritage List due to the slow implementation of UNESCO recommendations. The minister said there is no possibility in the near future that the Marshes would be excluded from the World Heritage List, arguing that Iraq is able to implement international requirements and has a history which proves it. Al-Janabi explained his ministry is working in partnership with other concerned ministries, local governments, civil society and local communities to manage the Marshes’ file in accordance with the Republican Decree No. 22 of 2015. He pointed out that the deadline for Iraq to submit its annual report on the Marshes’ file to the World Heritage Committee by November. Touching upon the issue of Iranian dam-construction, the minister explained that currently 10 dams are being built in Iran, while more have already been completed despite its devastating environmental impact on the tributaries of the Tigris River. Daryan Dam however remains the biggest threat considering its diversion of water from the Sirwan River (Diyala River) through through underground tunnels to feed agricultural areas in Iran. Therefore, these tunnels would prevent the Sirwan River from flowing into Iraqi territory and would desiccate Diyala River completely. The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources is currently confronting this issue. (Save the Tigris Campaign published a study on the Daryan Dam last year) At the end of the meeting, activists expressed their desire to continue such meetings in order to work in partnership with the Ministry to protect Iraqi water resources through a joint comprehensive plan.