Two Iraqi specialists in the water resources file for Sky News Arabia assess the value of this project, and whether the water shortage is only what Iraq faces regarding its water needs.

On Tuesday, the local administration in Basra province invited companies to submit their bids to implement the seawater desalination project as soon as possible, several months after the government studied the direction of this solution.

Several reasons for the water crisis in the two-river country are intertwined, including the lack of water from the sources as a result of worms built by Turkey and Iran, increased desertification, lack of rainfall and rising temperatures with climate change.

Partial solution

Adel al-Mukhtar, a former adviser to the Iraqi parliament's Agriculture and Water Committee, stressed the importance of the move, calling for other complementary steps.

In this regard, he says:

• Going to desalinate seawater like the countries of the world to secure the needs of the provinces, especially a province such as Basra, which overlooks the sea, is a good thing, but things need to arrange Iraq completely based on the amount of water available.

• This requires a reconsideration of agricultural policy, in addition to the fact that this winter is expected to be rainy, and it is hoped that rainwater will be used.

• Also, among the solutions that Iraq needs to confront water scarcity is to have an agricultural revolution with modern technologies, and to keep pace with the global development in smart agriculture to save quantities of water.

Compound crisis

Former Iraqi Minister of Water Resources Mohsen al-Shammari describes the water crisis in southern Iraq as "complex" in terms of water quantity (shortage) and quality (pollution).

He adds:

• Solving the problem of drinking water by desalination of seawater is a solution to part of the problem, not a radical solution, in light of the needs of agriculture for water, and the percentage of pollution suffered by water in Basra, and the drinking water crisis at the latest represents 10% of the problem.

• The water that comes to Basra comes from the top of the Tigris basin and the upper Euphrates basin, and the water from Syria, Iran and Turkey has a high percentage of pollution, in addition to the percentage of pollution that Iraqi cities add to the waters of Basra.

• Therefore, we say that desalination is only part of the solution, especially since water pollution results in polluted agricultural crops and contaminated animal products, in addition to damage to the environment.

Basra's preparations for the project

According to statements by the assistant governor of Basra, Hassan Zahir al-Najjar, to the Iraqi News Agency, the Prime Minister, Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, directed during the cabinet meeting last week to speed up the transfer of the seawater desalination project from the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction to the local government in Basra, where the province has been suffering from a water crisis since 1983, due to high salinity and salt concentrations.

With Basra's population currently at 5 million increasing, it needs more than one million and 250 cubic meters per day, al-Najjar said.

He added that the local government in Basra will start work directly on the desalination project, and will complete it in a record period after the transfer of financial allocations, "and companies have already been invited in this regard and are waiting for their tenders".