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Iranian Parliamentarians Chide Turkey's Water Policy

Iranian parliament in Tehran, May 29, 2016
Iranian parliament in Tehran, May 29, 2016

Iran’s Parliament has joined President Hassan Rouhani in dissent against the construction of Ilisu dam in Turkey.

In a July 3 speech, Rouhani implicitly denounced Turkey’s plans to construct dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, calling it “dangerous” for the whole region.

Iran's MPs also stepped in July 5, unveiling plans to establish a special parliamentary committee to oversee and study the construction of Ilisu Dam.

Ahmad Alirezabeygi, an MP for Tabriz, announced that Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee is going to set up a “security” group to oversee the Ilisu project.

The new committee will be tasked with weighing all international legal procedures available for reducing Ilisu’s expected negative impact on the region.

Alirezabeygi did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, Ankara’s ambassador to Tehran has asserted that Turkey will not relinquish “its right” to build dams.

Constructing dams without sufficient studies can be dangerous for the future of the region.
President Hassan Rouhani warning about Ankara's water policy

President Rouhani, speaking at an international conference on preventing and minimizing the effects of dust storms in Tehran, implicitly criticized Turkey on June 3. “Constructing dams without sufficient studies can be dangerous for the future of the region,” he said.

Turkey has constructed 19 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and has plans for three more, which would breach Ankara’s existing water agreements with Damascus and Baghdad.

According to a number of media reports and expert assessments, Ilisu Dam has three times more capacity than Iran’s biggest dam, Karkheh. The dam retains 56 percent of the water that flows from Turkey’s territory into the Tigris.

Several Iranian experts have also predicted that Ilisu is going to aggravate aridity in some parts of Iraq and, consequently, intensify dust storms in Iran.

Iranian officials have also accused Turkey of aggravating dust storms in the region by inhibiting water flow into Mesopotamia.

Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fazli Corman, who was in Tehran July 3 to attend the United Nations-sponsored International Conference on Dust and Sandstorms, dismissed the reports. “There is no scientific research or study verifying the negative impact of constructing dams on aggravating dust and sand storms,” he said.

In an interview with Mehr News Agency July 5, Turkey's ambassador to Tehran, Reza Hakan Tekin, also said “Turkey’s dams have no negative impact on Syria and Iraq’s environment.”

Hakan Tekin criticized Iran for building dams on the rivers flowing into Iraq. “Some say water is more expensive than oil in our times. Therefore, how do you expect Turkey to relinquish his right in water sector?” he said.

However, Hakan Tekin also stressed that “Turkey does not want to see any country exposed to a catastrophe...Ankara is ready to discuss the matter with Tehran.”

Since Iraq and Syria are suffering from internal conflicts, Ankara cannot initiate joint projects in common river basins with Baghdad and Damascus,” Hakan Tekin added.

Iran’s own dam construction policy has been criticized in recent years by environmental activists. Experts believe that excessive dam construction in Iran has led to the drying up of its lakes, including Lake Urmia.

According to the Iran Students News Agency, ISNA, “Climate Change” factors has forced Iran’s Energy Ministry to review its plans to build fifty new dams.