In a report published on Tuesday, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said US-funded “short-term solutions” had yet to significantly solve the dam’s problems.
SIGIR found multiple failures in several of the 21 contracts awarded to repair the dam.
Among the faults were faulty construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects which were not completed despite full payments having been made.
Mosul Dam is ‘unsafe’ in any definition,” the PowerPoint presentation said. It added: “Condition continually degrading” and “Failure mode is credible.” Under a section labeled “Consequences of Failure,” it says: “Mass civilian fatalities.”
A collapse would put Mosul under 20 metres of water and parts of Baghdad under 4.5 metres, according to Abdulkhalik Thanoon Ayoub, the dam manager.
Ayoub said U.S. officials spoke in person about the dam in even more apocalyptic terms. “They went to the Ministry of Water Resources and told them that the dam could collapse any day,” he said.
The report so alarmed the governor of Nineveh province, where the dam is located, that he asked that it be drained of all water immediately, Ayoub said.
Ayoub said he agrees that the most catastrophic collapse of the dam could kill 500,000 people, but he said U.S. officials have not convinced him that the structure is at high risk of collapse. “The Americans may very well be right about the danger,” Ayoub said. “I think it is safe enough that my office is in the flood plain.”
Iraqi dam ‘at risk of collapse’
In an interview Monday night, Abdul Latif Rashid, Iraq’s minister of water resources, said that he believed the safety situation was not critical and that he was more inclined to trust his engineers than American reports.
“Is the dam going to collapse tomorrow?” Rashid said. “I can’t tell you that. Let us hope that we avoid a disaster and focus now on a solution.”
The Army Corps has recommended that a partially constructed dam at Badush, which lies between Mosul Dam and the city, be finished as a stopgap measure in case Mosul Dam collapses.
But Salar Bakir Sami, director general of planning and development at the Water Resources Ministry, said Iraqi government officials do not think it is necessary to spend the estimated $10 billion for such a project. Instead, he said, the ministry planned to spend $300 million to construct a smaller version of the Badush dam that would generate electricity and provide irrigation, but not serve as a safety valve in case Mosul Dam breaks.
Rashid said his top priority is to fix Mosul Dam by building a concrete wall at its foundation that should shore up the design and provide “a permanent solution.” He said experts have just discovered cutting-edge technology that would allow such a wall to be built, perhaps with construction starting by next year at a cost of less than $1 billion.
In the report to be released Tuesday, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a federal oversight agency, found that little of the reconstruction effort led by the U.S. Embassy has succeeded in improving the dam. The office reviewed contracts worth $27 million, but an embassy official said the total cost of the project was $34 million.
The review found that a Turkish company, which was paid $635,000 for a contract awarded 19 months ago to build storage silos for cement, had done so little and such poor-quality work that its project may have to be restarted. One company contracted to design grout-mixing plants instead submitted plans for unusable concrete-mixing plants. High-tech equipment meant to help grouting is gathering dust because it won’t work, according to investigators.
Embassy and Army Corps officials noted that it has been difficult to conduct oversight of the project because it is in a dangerous area. They said that contracts with the worst businesses have been terminated and that steps have been taken to ensure better management of the project in the future.
“Our focus is on whether the project that the Corps undertook got carried out and the answer to that question is no,” said Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector general. “The expenditures of the money have yielded no benefit yet.”
In an article written in August 2007, an Independent News writer Patrick Cockburn reported (see site below):
…the Ministry of Water Resources in Baghdad concluded that a limit should also be placed on the level of the water in the reservoir – that was done in April last year.
The ministry did not respond to inquiries by email and phone about the deteriorating state of the dam. “It is a time bomb waiting to go off,” said the aid worker.
“Everybody knows about the threat but they have other preoccupations and, in the case of foreigners, it is now conveniently in Iraqi hands.” He said that on some US communications equipment, there was a panic button to be pressed as soon as the dam began to give way. The unstable bedrock beneath the dam has been known about for a long time. The Iraqi government has been trying to patch it up for 19 years. It is not clear why the dam, known as the “Saddam Dam” prior to 2003, was built where it is, given the solubility of the rock underneath it. The fact that construction began in 1980, the first year of the Iran-Iraq war, and the reservoir began to fill only four years later, may explain why such a gross error about its site was made.
Saddam Hussein began a period of helter-skelter construction in the first years of the Iran-Iraq war to show his people the conflict would not hold back economic development. The construction boom, funded by loans from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, involved too many new projects for Iraq to monitor effectively. The dam has an installed hydroelectric capacity to produce 750MW of electricity and its other functions are flood control, the supply of water for irrigation and municipal water supply. Given the chronic shortage of electricity in Iraq there is a disinclination to reduce the amount coming from the Mosul dam or any other source.
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