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3 Dams in Assyrian Province 'Near Collapse' After Heavy Rainfall: Iraqi Officials
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Aerial view of recent flooding in the Zarbatia district of Wasit governorate, Iraq, November 20, 2018. ( Iraqi Red Crescent Society)
Heavy rainfall has left three dams in Duhok province on the brink of collapse, according to local officials, who say the government is ignoring their pleas for help. Meanwhile, Darbandikhan's hydroelectric dam near Halabja has vastly increased its power generating capacity.

Since last week, the Kurdistan Region has seen extremely heavy rain leading to flash flooding, particularly in the provinces of Duhok and Sulaimani. Roads and bridges crumbled as soil was rapidly eroded from under them.

"In all countries, there is a high committee for natural disasters, but there isn't one in Kurdistan. We haven't been able to sleep for four days due to being fearful of small dams collapsing," Ziyad Abdullah, director of Duhok's Department of Irrigation, told Rudaw.

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials have not answered their pleas for assistance, he said.

Besides Duhok's large dam, there are 55 smaller ones.

"We only needed 2 million IQD ($1,680) to mitigate the risks to these dams, but no one helped us," added Abdullah.

Concerned by the rapid buildup of water, engineers were forced to partially open Shiekhan dam to release the pressure.

Besides the Shiekhan dam, Mam Shivan and Gre Gawre dams also face danger.

"If we don't monitor them, they might crack," said Abdullah.

It is not clear what damage would be caused to urban areas and farmland if any of these dams fail.

International teams have been working to stabilize Mosul Dam, which remains in danger of collapse. If Mosul Dam fails, cites along the length of the Tigris to the Gulf could suffer inundation -- including the capital Baghdad.

Kurdistan's Weather Forecast department has warned of further heavy rain from Wednesday.

According to a five year plan (2013-2018) drafted by the KRG, 500 reservoirs and dams were to be constructed in Duhok. The financial crisis, however, prevented that. Just 55 have been built to date.

Ramazan Hamzah, a geology expert from Duhok University, told Rudaw this year was very suitable for storing water -- a resource desperately needed across central and southern Iraq.

"Unfortunately, no use was made of that large amount of rain in the past few days. Instead of storing water, now there is danger of floods," added Hamzah.

The KRG has no strategy for underground and surface water, "at a time when big fights over water are underway," he added.

The Kurdistan Region does not suffer from serious water shortages. However, mismanagement and the lack of a culture of water conservation among the public leads to massive waste.

Iraq's central and southern provinces have seen a dwindling supply of water caused by climate change, drought, and a number of dams built upstream by Turkey on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Baghdad has even banned the cultivation of water-intensive crops.

'Most rain in 60 years'

One dam in Halabja province has actually benefitted from the deluge. The heavy rainfall has boosted power generating capacity at Darbandikhan hydroelectric plant, which has brought two more turbines online.

"Due to decreasing water levels, only one electricity turbine in the Darbandikhan dam was operational, but due to the increase in the dam's water level, another turbine became operational, and on Monday, December 10, the third turbine will become operational," Nasih Malla Hassan, mayor of Darbandikhan, told Rudaw.

A single turbine produces 83 megawatts of electricity. The output of three combined turbines is 249, according to the mayor. Produced electricity has increased from 83 megawatts to 249 megawatts.

In the past four days, there has been 180mm of rainfall in Dabandikhan, increasing the total this year to 390 mm. "Except for 2015, this is the highest amount of rain in the past 60 years in the district," said Hassan.

However, the rain has also caused serious local flooding -- destroying the Darbandikhan-Kalar road.

Darbandikhan's dam is also not able to store the power created at this high capacity owing to earthquake damage.

The Kurdistan Region suffers from regular power outages. In both the cold season and hot season, demand exceeds supply, critically shortening the hours of electricity.

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