The New York Times published a report on Tuesday about the research carried out by NASA and the University of California, Irvine on the Middle Eastern river system.
“Scientists… found during a seven-year period beginning in 2003 that parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of total stored freshwater,” NASA and the University of California, Irvine said in a joint press release.
The researchers said about 60 percent of the loss is due to “pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs.”
Jay Famiglietti, the principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at the University of California, Irvine, stated that the decline rate intensified especially after a drought in 2007.
“The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws.”
Around 1.2 billion people are affected by water scarcity in the world.
Earlier this year, Turkey has also cut off the water flow into the Euphrates.
The crisis revolves around the Euphrates River, which quickly became the Euphrates Creek when Turkey completely cut off the water flow upstream of Syria, reported Al Akhbar on May 30. The Euphrates originates in Turkey and passes through the Atatürk Dam before flowing into Syria and Iraq. By cutting off the flow and directing it into the reservoir, Turkey has lowered water levels downstream, said the Trumphet.com.
Water levels in Lake Assad, Syria’s largest body of water, have dropped by 20 feet since Turkey shut off the water supply. The Euphrates hydrates large parts of Syria.
Middle East expert Daniel Pipes explained the looming disaster as genocide by way of “terminal dehydration.” Cutting off a nation’s water supply is potentially fatal in its severity and indiscriminate in its victims. The dry and arid regions of northeastern Syria will quickly empty if one of the most basic necessities of human life dries up.
The problem extends beyond Syria. Much of Iraq’s freshwater supply originates in Turkey and flows through Syria before it is collected in dams in Iraq. If these dams experience a sharp drop in water and pressure, they could collapse. Daniel Pipes said that if one of these dams, the Mosul Dam, collapsed parts of Baghdad itself would be under water within a few hours. Within two hours, the city of Mosul, home to 1.7 million Iraqis, would be a Mideast Atlantis.
Shutting down the Euphrates and endangering the lives of millions testifies to the brutality of the Syrian civil war. Both sides continue to outdo one another in barbarity. The current death toll stands at well over 150,000, but that number could multiply if the two sides continue to invent new, indiscriminate, extreme ways of killing each other.
The Syrian civil war is engulfing more and more of the Middle East as time goes on. Turkey is supporting the rebels, as are the Sunni Arab nations; Lebanon is heavily involved through Hezbollah; Iran is funding Assad’s regime; and now Iraq may take greater action as its cities are threatened by more than just terrorists.