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Iraq Reconstruction Sputtering As U.S. Money Runs Out

The manager of the dam in the northern city of Mosul, Abdul-Khaliq Thanon Ayoub, has dismissed a U.S. report of a potential collapse. Analysts say such a disaster could drown the city and cause as many as 500,000 civilian deaths.

Iraq's largest dam, which was built in 1980s on the Tigris River, hit the headlines on October 30 after a report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailing the potential erosion of the foundations. Apparently, it was built on a type of rock that dissolves when it comes into contact with water.

According to the report, the dam could buckle under water pressure, drowning Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, and parts of the capital, Baghdad. The dam is a key component in the country's power grid, with four 200MW turbines. Ranked by the World Commission on Dams as the Middle East's fourth-largest in reservoir capacity, it also captures spring snowmelt from Turkey to the north, and stores water for irrigation. A breach would not only kill people downstream quickly, it would also cause prolonged suffering through power outage and water shortages.

"Almost immediately after the dam was completed in 1983, engineers began injecting the dam with grout, a liquefied mixture of cement and other additives and more than 50,000 tons of material have been pumped into the dam and we can hold up to three trillion gallons of water," Ayoub said.

Ayoub agreed that the collapse of the dam could kill as many as 500,000 people, but he said U.S. officials had not convinced him that the structure was at imminent risk of collapse.

"Of course a collapse will lead to a disaster and high numbers of people will be killed -- but the probability of such a thing happening is not very high," Ayoub added.

On 31 October, the Iraqi government refuted the reports. "The Mosul Dam is in good condition and is not in danger," government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh stated. "This dam is under constant observation by the Iraqi government and all precautionary measures and necessary maintenance are being taken."

He added that teams of specialists and experts were "working around the clock" to strengthen the dam by bolstering areas suffering from erosion with cement.

© IRIN 2007

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Albion Monitor   November 8, 2007   (

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