Ninewa, Nov 9, (VOI) – The controversial issue of the Mosul Dam has come up to the surface again after reports warned of a possible imminent collapse threatening to flood about half a million Iraqis amidst arguments among government and political circles in this regard.
Some believe that reports about this dam was sheer media hype that rests on no authentic geological data while others think the stakes were high about the dam collapse now that there were no accurate scientific measures adopted to provide maintenance services.
The Washington Post’s last week report said that the Iraqi government rejected the findings of a U.S. oversight panel that the dam, near the northern city of Mosul, was on the verge of a collapse that could cause flooding along the Tigris River “all the way to Baghdad.” The possible collapse, the U.S. paper said, could unleash four billion cubic meters of water at one shot, which might kill thousands and submerge two of Iraq’s largest cities by nearly 20 meters.
Riad al-Mufti, the former director for planning and follow-up of the Mosul Dam, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) that he believed there was no clear danger as far as a collapse of the dam was concerned. “The body of the dam can never tumble down except if struck with an atomic bomb or a powerful tremor. The dam body and foundations have no problem,” Mufti affirmed.
He pointed out that the continuous cement stuffing being applied at present in the dam base was part of its designing since it was first built on January 25, 1981 until its completion in 1986. “There was a tunnel designed inside the dam especially for stuffing works,” he said. However, Mufti added, there was a problem regarding stuffing works, which were neglected during the 1990s, due to lack of state assistance and inefficiency of technical staff then.
An executive engineer working in Mosul Dam told VOI on condition of anonymity that there were special drills inside the dam used to reach the spaces and pump a special kind of cement inside them.
Experts, however, said the geological nature of the terrain where the dam was built was unsuitable, being composed of salty rocks that melt under pressure. They believe that if the gaps formed in the rocks are not filled with a special kind of cement, there would be more threats posed to the dam. A geologist who had worked on the Mosul Dam project told VOI the amount of water that would flood from the dam if it collapsed is estimated by 660,000 cubic meters per second while the Tigris River water course can not stand discharging more than 3,500 cubic meters per second.
“No one can predict when the dam might fall down. It could be today, tomorrow or in 30 years,” he said.
Built between 1980 and 1984 by a joint German-Italian corporation, the 113 meter high dam’s life span was estimated to reach 80 years.
Replying to the Washington Post report on the dam, Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, the official spokesman for the Iraqi government, said in a statement that his government has placed the dam under constant monitoring with all precautions and maintenance works provided. “Iraqi teams have been working round the clock to inject the dam base with concrete and fill in the gaps that resulted from the erosion of some rocks,” Dabbagh said.
Ninewa Governor Dreid Kashmoula said the filling works stopped for a “short while” after the U.S. invaded Iraq. “The danger in the Mosul dam has been present since day one of its construction, due to the non-solidness of the terrain on which the dam stands,” Kashmoula said during a press conference in Mosul, 405 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
Flooding seems to be still haunting the Iraqi people’s minds, although nothing has happened since the country’s 1954 great flood, after the construction of several dams on the river Tigris. Furthermore, the 1987 increase in water levels in the river Tigris to unprecedented levels that threatened to submerge Baghdad and other cities overlooking the river was reminiscent of the true hazards posed by a possible flood.
The British newspaper The Independent said in a recent report that fears were growing about the collapse of the Mosul dam after its walls cracked. The paper, citing a report by a team of U.S. engineers working at the dam to the U.S. embassy in Iraq, said the dam had “irreparable essential flaws within its foundations.”
A post-collapse flood might harm more than 70% of the province of Ninewa and more than 399 km of areas like Tikrit, Samarra and the peripheries of Baghdad where the river Tigris runs.
Brig. Muhammad Mahmoud Sulayman, the Ninewa civil defense department chief and a member of the flood committee set up by an order from the governor, revealed other dimensions of the dam problem of a service and economic nature after a technical panel recommended having it emptied.
A disaster management official from the Red Crescent Society in the province spoke of hardships that relief operations may face for Mosul’s 1.7 million residents who may be harmed by a possible first wave of flooding.
“Sheltered areas to receive the evacuated are already located in the western and northern parts of the city, in addition to foodstuffs, tents and medical services, provided in association with the civil defense department,” the official told VOI.
A possible first wave will take three hours to reach Mosul, as indicated by civil defense sources, which is very little time to help a population of 1.7 million, he explained.
The Badosh dam, located between the Mosul dam and the city and in which works started in the late 1980s and stopped in the mid-1990s, was mainly built to withstand a first wave of flooding if the Mosul dam collapsed and to receive flowing water for a period of nine hours.