Cablegate: Drought Saps Krg Dam Levels, Power Generation

DE RUEHGB #2342/01 2091434
R 271434Z JUL 08





E.O. 12958: N/A

This is an RRT Erbil reporting cable.

1. (SBU) Summary: Site visits in May and June by RRTOff to the
Kurdistan Region's Dokan and Darbandikhan hydroelectric dams in
Sulaimaniyah governorate revealed facilities severely limited by
drought and producing at near-minimal capacity. Officials at Dokan,
a large and well-maintained facility, indicated that the only
challenge they faced was a lack of rain; while their counterparts at
Darbandikhan, a more modest facility by comparison, admitted they
were operating with no spare parts on hand and could not maintain
the facility effectively. Severe drought has reduced water levels
between ten and 20 meters, forcing the facilities to reduce power
generation to half of normal levels. Despite the low water levels,
both dams are continuing to provide electricity to the national
grid. Both dams are taking advantage of a $40M World Bank soft loan
to fund Milan-based ELC Electroconsult, S.p.A. to assess the
condition of both lakes, sediment build-up in the dams, and land
erosion. The KRG's inability or reluctance to release water for
irrigation and municipal water supply needs is causing problems for
provinces south of the dams. The KRG faces fierce competition
between the demands to provide water and electricity, and the Kurds
argue that they are not receiving ample electricity from the
national grid. Different perceptions of the issue suggest that
better communication between the relevant national and KRG
ministries is necessary to overcome the impasse. End summary.

Dokan Down Ten Meters; One Turbine Operating

2. (SBU) During a May site visit to the Dokan Hydroelectric
Facility, dam officials discussed obstacles confronting the
facility's ability to generate power. The concrete dam, built for
irrigation in 1959 with Soviet assistance, is situated on the
southern end of man-made Lake Dokan and was fitted with five
turbines in 1976-80. Each turbine is capable of producing 80MW,
with total production capacity of 400MW/hour. The dam's water
capacity is 6.8bn cubic meters, but with a 300mm shortfall in rain
this year (one-third of 2007 levels), the hold on May 11 was only
2.374bn cubic meters. Dam officials indicated that when levels fall
below 1.3bn cubic meters the facility cannot generate any power.
The drought had forced the dam to operate only one turbine,
producing 60-65MW per hour, about half the average production seen
in June 2007. Dokan is connected to the national grid at Tasluja,
about 20km west of Sulaimaniyah.

3. (U) Both Dokan and Darbandikhan are being assessed by Milan-based
ELC Electroconsult, S.p.A. A $40M soft loan from the World Bank has
funded the Italian firm to check the condition of the lakes and dams
and to assess the sediment build-up in each as well as land

Darbandikhan Twenty Meters Down; Operating at One-sixth Capacity

4. (SBU) Equally beset by the drought, the smaller earthen dam at
Darbandikhan, near the border with Diyala, faced shortfalls in water
levels of 20 meters in its man-made lake that is fed by the Sirwan
river (Diyala). The capacity of the lake is 3bn cubic meters, with
three turbines producing 83MW (total capacity 249MW/hour) when water
levels are adequate. The lake's volume was at 1.57bn cubic meters
as of mid-June. With water levels almost half of where they should
be for the year, Darbandikhan was running two turbines for ten hours
per day and was able to produce 55MW per unit, per hour, (total
current production 110MW/hour - less than half the facility's
capacity). Total production over a 24-hour period on June 17 was
1107MWH. The dam would not be able to produce power if water levels
were to fall another 20m (down to 445m above sea level). Officials
at Darbandikhan estimated that reduced water levels due to the
drought combined with half a billion cubic meters lost to sediment
meant the dam was actually functioning around one-sixth of its

5. (U) Also originally built for irrigation, Darbandikhan had three
turbines built and installed by Mitsubishi, with separate assistance
from UK, U.S., and Yugoslav companies, between 1951 and 1962. After
a power station study was completed in 1979, construction began on
the power station portion of the dam, reaching completion in 1982.
During the Iran-Iraq war, the area was shelled heavily, and Iran
targeted the facility's transmission lines. The Iraqi government
sealed the turbine sets and kept Darbandikhan separate from the
national grid. After 1991, the Kurdistan Regional administration
installed two 132-kV transmission lines to Sulaimaniyah and one
132-kV line to Kalar and Kifri to link up to the national grid. An
explosion in 1991 destroyed two of the three turbines and both were
repaired in 1994 and 1997 by exhausting all the facility's supply of

BAGHDAD 00002342 002 OF 002

spare parts. During the first Gulf War, Mitsubishi was unwilling to
maintain the turbines, citing existing unpaid debts, and the dam has
been struggling to obtain spare parts for maintenance and repair
ever since. Darbandikhan's life span was expected to be 150 years;
the facility just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

KRG Controlling Generation and Flow in Face of Drought

6. (U) The Sulaimaniyah Directorate of Electricity confirmed to RRT
Erbil on July 1 that, despite the drought and low water levels, both
Dokan and Darbandikhan are feeding electricity into the national
grid at a rate of 50MW/hour from Darbandikhan and 60MW/hour from
Dokan. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq also draws from the national
grid. Persistent drought, however, may cause water levels to fall
further and threaten the dams' ability to generate even minimal
power. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is controlling power
generation and water flow to conserve energy in the face of severe
water shortfalls as it deploys a region-wide plan to address the

7. (SBU) The drought has also affected downstream consumers who are
desperate for more water from Darbandikhan. In April, RRT Erbil,
PRT Diyala, and MND-N organized a meeting in Erbil between the
governor of Diyala and KRG Deputy PM Omar Fatah to discuss releasing
additional water from Darbandikhan. The meeting resulted in KRG
agreement to increase the flow 50 cubic meters/second, with promises
to revisit the issue. Additionally, MND-N and PRT Kirkuk have
worked to inform local farmers of the severity of the water
situation in the dams to lessen accusations of Kurds withholding
water from Arabs.

8. (SBU) Comment: Dokan and Darbandikan Dams are overseen by the
KRG Ministry of Water Resources, but the dams are supposed to be
operated, and water released, according to a national water plan
developed by the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources in Baghdad. The
actual releases from these two dams for this summer season, as well
as the previous two growing seasons have not been in accordance with
the national water release plan, (which stipulates that water
releases should be determined by downstream irrigation and municipal
water supply needs -- the top priority for water use in Iraq).
Power generation from dams in Iraq has always been a byproduct of
meeting irrigation and municipal water demands. The inability of
the KRG to adhere to the national water release plan has caused
considerable problems downstream with respect to water supply and is
expected to lead to serious water crises later this year in parts of
Iraq. We understand that the Iraq MoWR indicated it has been in
continuous contact with the KRG MoWR over its failure to release
water according to the national plan, and the Minister has briefed
the Parliament on the situation.

9. (SBU) Comment (cont'd): There is fierce competition in the KRG
between competing demands for water and electricity. In response to
criticism they are not releasing water at the correct rate to the
south, KRG officials argue they are not getting from the south the
share of electricity from the national grid they are owed. In any
case, the disconnect between the provisions of the national water
plan and the levels that the KRG MoWR is releasing suggests that
communication and agreement between the two ministries needs to be
improved. RRT will continue engagement with KRG MoWR to resolve the


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