World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Iraq: US Warns Largest Dam In Danger Of Collapse

By Deborah Block
Mosul Dam, Iraq

US Warns Largest Dam in Iraq Faces Danger of Collapsing

U.S. officials are warning that the largest dam in Iraq is in danger of collapsing. They say flooding caused by the collapse would kill a half million people in the nearby city of Mosul. But the manager of the dam says even though there are problems, the dam will not fall down.

Mosul dam sits in a scenic valley in northwestern Iraq and provides hydroelectric power to Mosul, the country's third-largest city.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Mosul dam should be shut down, calling it is the most dangerous dam in the world because of erosion problems. They warn that the wall of the dam holding back the Tigris River could collapse at any time.

Earlier this year, the top American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, along with the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker said a flood would not only affect Mosul but devastate cities farther south, including Baghdad.

But Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh does not agree with the reports and says Mosul Dam is in good condition and not in danger.

Abdulkhalik Thanoon Ayoub, is an engineer and manager of the dam. He says there is no cause for alarm.

"This is the best place to build a dam, except for one factor, and that is the geology," he said. "My office is on the downstream side of the dam and I can say with confidence that I am not worried."

But he agrees that the three-kilometer structure has a major problem because it was built on top of gypsum, a mineral that dissolves in water. Over time water flowing over the gypsum is causing cracks and holes that are constantly being grouted with concrete material to prevent the dam from collapsing. Ayoub says this solution has worked since the dam was built more than 20 years ago.

"We have no other choice," he said. "We have to perform this grouting continuously to reinforce the foundation, and at the same time, we have to find a permanent solution."

It is not clear why the dam was constructed in an unstable location since Iraqi engineers knew about the problem from the beginning. But it was built at a time when Saddam Hussein decided where many construction projects in Iraq would be located.

Contributing to the problem is a recent report by a U.S. oversight agency that says a $27 million American reconstruction project to improve the dam and grouting has been mismanaged and not led to significant improvements.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is recommending building a second dam downstream as a backup. But Iraq's government is resisting the costly project and says it is not necessary. Ayoub says Iraq's Ministry of Water Resources is cautious, but open to suggestions, including those by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Their report did not convince engineers with the Iraqi water resources ministry about their conclusion 100 percent, " said Ayoub. "We have invited specialized companies from Germany, Italy, and other countries [to help us], and we got encouraging news that there is a permanent solution."

Ayoub says one possibility is installing a vertical plane of cement that would stop the water from flowing across the gypsum and prevent it from deteriorating.

"It is an easy solution because you can start directly from the foundation, which would eliminate the movement of water," he said.

U.S. officials are urging Iraq to make the safety of the dam a national priority. They fear that if nothing is done soon, it will collapse and thousands of people will lose their lives.


More: Latest World News | Top World News | World Digest | Archives

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Preliminary Results: MH17 Investigation Report

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. More>>


At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>


Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news