The collapse of the Mosul dam could unleash a flood that may kill hundreds of thousands of people and trigger an environmental disaster, experts warned.


It is 113 meters high and 3.4 km long and is located 50 km north of Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, the capital of the province of Nineveh in northern Iraq.

At full capacity, the dam creates a vast lake behind it as it holds back about 11.1 billion cubic meters of water.

Three hydropower stations were built inside the dam, designed to generate 1052 megawatts of electricity. However, due to technical issues, they currently generate only 800 megawatts.

Initially the dam was built on clay and gypsum layers which dissolve upon contact with water thus cavities developed under the dam’s foundation.

To stabilize it, hundreds of workers injected cement into the cavities to prevent damage to the dam’s foundation.

The dam was seized by the Islamic State (IS) for over 10 days in August 2014, hindering the process, forcing workers to flee as IS destroyed their equipment, until Kurdish forces regained control of the dam and resumed the process.

However, the government could not immediately resume the process as the cement factory was still under IS control.

Iraqi authorities were then forced to import cement from Turkey.

The Mosul dam was branded by the American army in Iraq as “the most dangerous dam in the world” in 2006, and they warned that it could collapse at any moment thus sparking a colossal humanitarian catastrophe.

Further reports from U.S. Army Engineers confirmed following an assessment that the dam “is most likely to fail than originally thought.”
The engineers discovered new cavities formed by rock disintegration beneath the dam’s foundation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Iraqi authorities in January to take urgent measures toward securing the dam as revealed by media reports in March.

The U.S. administration was concerned that such a catastrophe would undermine the U.S.’s efforts to stabilize the Iraqi government and complicate the battle against IS in Iraq.

If the dam were to collapse, the initial tidal wave would hit Mosul in three to four hours with an 11-meter high flood, while the remaining wave would rise to 20 meters after nine hours, completely destroying the city of Mosul.

Experts said the wave would reach Baghdad in 72 hours, where water levels would be four meters deep and would cover 55 percent of the city.

A U.S. government assessment released in February stated that nearly 500,000 to 1.47 million Iraqis would be killed by the tidal wave along the Tigris River, unless they evacuated the flood zone if they received an early warning.

The worst scenario is if the collapse occurs in the spring when the Tigris river swells due to the melting snow and torrential seasonal rain, and the lake behind the dam would quickly rise to a much higher level.

However, Riyadh Ezz al-din, head of Mosul Dam project, told the local NINA news agency “the dam is not in any danger as the reservoir’s water level is at 25 percent of the dam’s full capacity.”

“The danger would occur in the event the water level rises over 60 percent of the dam’s capacity,” Ezz al-din said.

An Iraqi parliamentary committee presented a report on the Mosul dam which said that decreasing the reservoir’s water level would only reduce damages caused by a flood but not prevent them entirely.

Iraq knew about the Mosul dam and the risk associated with it since before 2003 and they tried to build the Badush Dam, 16 km north of Mosul, in order to protect the cities along the valley of the river Tigris.

However, construction of the Badush dam stoped following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Late in February, the Iraqi government issued a potential contingency plan in the event the Mosul dam collapses involving the evacuation of the residents in towns and cities near the river banks several kilometers away to higher areas in order to avoid the most dangerous part of the flood path.

“The dam’s collapse is highly unlikely, particularly with the technical and administrative precautions taken by the authorities, however the serious consequences if it did collapse necessitate the alarm,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said in a statement.

“We developed a precautionary recommendations package, to avoid potential risks. The recommendations must be taken seriously by everyone.”

One of the precautions was Iraq’s 296 million U.S. dollars contract on March 2 with the Italian engineering TREVI Group to perform emergency repairs to the dam. Enditem

Source; Xinhua


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