The alarm bells are increasingly sounding about the Mosul Dam and the possibility that it could collapse and cause catastrophic flooding all the way down to Baghdad. If it fails, it could leave Mosul City under 15 meters of water in only hours killing nearly 1.5 million people living on the banks of river Tigris.
The Mosul dam was built on the Tigris River in the early 1980s on unstable ground where the earth underneath it is constantly being eroded by water. From the day it was inaugurated, maintenance crews have had to continuously pour cement under its foundation in what is known as “grouting.”
Things worsened when ISIS overran the dam and held it for several weeks in 2014 until U.S.-backed Iraqi forces retook the dam. Since then, efforts to enforce the dam’s foundations have not been up to full levels, in part because the ISIS militants control the nearby factory that produces the concrete for the dam.
Iraq, recently, signed a deal with an Italian company to repair and maintain Mosul Dam. The contract, worth of $296 million, was signed last week in Baghdad with Italy’s Trevi group. However, built on an unstable foundation, the dam requires constant infusions of concrete — infusions which have been interrupted by the Islamic State’s brief takeover of the facility.
Implications on Turkey
On first week of March 2016, the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad warned residents along the Tigris of the dam’s possible collapse. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked Mosul residents along the Tigris to move at least 3.7 miles away from its banks and the U.S. Embassy called the dam’s risk of collapse “serious and unprecedented.”
If the dam collapses, in addition to the grave humanitarian disaster it will generate just a couple of hundred miles away from the Turkish border, it will have catastrophic consequences in one of Turkey’s trading partners in the region, numbers of which are dwindling down very fast. It could also trigger a mass exodus up towards the Turkish-Iraqi border, in such a scale that the sheer number of IDPs may exceed the capability of Turkish officials handling the crisis all alone.