Apr 26 2014
By Nidhal al-Laithi
Azzaman, April 26, 2014
Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have closed the gates of a dam they control in the town of Falluja, practically diverting the flow of the River Tigris.
The closure of the dam gates is reported to have washed away 200 villages and inundated large areas including the town of Abu Ghraib in the outskirts of Baghdad.
ISIS controlled Falluja nearly three months ago and is using the dam as a weapon to forestall an attack on the town by government troops and Arab tribesmen who have allied against the group.
The government is keeping a blackout on the fallout of the dam’s closure but tens thousands of residents have been fleeing the inundation which has submerged large parts of Abu Ghraib and is threatening certain Baghdad neighbourhoods.
Reports say if the flow of water continues it might threaten Baghdad International Airport, though the airport itself lies on ground that is higher than Abu Ghraib.
Experts estimate damage to agriculture and hundreds of villages and their inhabitants at billions of dollars, saying the flooding has destroyed crops in the fertile plateau between Baghdad and Falluja.
Water levels are the lowest downstream and reports say water purification plants in several downstream cities have come to a halt.
The dam in Falluja functions as a regulator and not a reservoir and shutting the gates has cause the river waters to flood adjacent areas.
Reports from Abu Ghraib say up to 40,000 families have fled their villages and farms as water inundating their areas.
Abu Ghraib administrative official, Othman Nawaf, has pleaded with the government to ferry urgent assistance to the fleeing families.
“The government has sent 4,000 food baskets so far,” he said.
Nawaf said the authorities have dispatched “large numbers” of earth-moving machines which are working round the clock erect earth embankments to prevent river waters spreading to other areas.
However, he said, the flow of water has been rising steadily and in quantities making it hard to contain.
Saad Mutalibi, a member of Baghdad provincial council, warned that Baghdad Province’s coffers were empty and the authorities had nor resource to help out the fleeing families.
“The (2014) budget has not yet been approved (by the parliament) and we have nothing to offer to those affected by flooding,” Mutalibi said.
Asked why the media were paying not attention to the flooding, he said that the authorities and the media were busy with the general elections which for them were more important than the tragedy Abu Ghraib and other areas were facing.