Most of the time, I admire a positive attitude.
This isn't one of those times.
The Mosul Dam is one of Iraq's landmarks, and the largest dam in Iraq. It holds back eight billion cubic meters of the Tigris River's water (about 10.4 billion cubic yards). That's a lot of water. The Mosul Dam is also the site of a major hydroelectric power plant: which makes it very important in a power-starved Iraq.
Here's a timeline:
- 1979: Saddam Hussein becomes Iraqi president
- 1980: Iran-Iraq War begins
- 1980: Mosul Dam construction
- 1980: begins
- 1984: ends
- 1988: Iran-Iraq War ends
- 1991: Persian Gulf War
- 2003: War on Terror removes Saddam Hussein from power
- Soluble gypsum
- Karstic limestone
The US embassy's statement says: "To manage the risk, the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources has been conducting continuous grouting operations to fill voids and fractures created by the dissolution of the foundation since the 1980s."
The Independent (UK) quoted "one source," saying that if water levels behind the Mosul Dam stay where they are, there's a "reasonably high" chance of an immediate failure, and that failure is "most certain" within the next few years.
Briefly, the situation is:
- Saddam Hussein's regime built a earthfill dam on dissolving rock
- Iraqi engineers have been patching it ever since
- Engineers have determined that the dam, as it stands, is doomed
- The Iraqi government says it isn't
If the Mosul Dam breaks, Mosul is in trouble. The city is 20 miles downstream from the dam. When the flood reaches that city of 1.7 million people, odds are that 70% of the city will be destroyed.
By the time the flood reaches Baghdad, it shouldn't be quite so much of a problem.
As I said before, I approve of a positive attitude. But not when there's a disolving dam upstream from a major city.
I can understand the Iraqi government's attitude. They're in the unenviable position of trying to put Iraq back together, after over three decades of daft planning and negligible maintenance. From a Public Relations point of view, at this moment the last thing the Iraqi national government needs is to admit that there's one more foul-up to fix.
I hope that someone over there looks at long-range consequences, and has a plan for dealing with an earthfill dam that's losing ground.
Why that title, "The Mosul Dam: Keep an Eye on This?"
Although I hope this doesn't happen, there's a good chance that the Mosul Dam will fail, catastrophically, sometime between now and a few years from now.
When/if that happens, I expect that America will be blamed. There's a sort of foreshadowing of this in the words of an unidentified aid, quoted in The Independent: "Everybody knows about the threat but they have other preoccupations and, in the case of foreigners, it is now conveniently in Iraqi hands."
After all, it was American engineers were among those who said that the dam's foundations were dissolving.