A New Partner in Iraq
It gives me great pleasure and excitement to announce that 350.org has a new partner in Iraq: the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI). ICSSI is a platform to support Iraqi civil society through concrete actions, advocacy and campaigns. They are a valuable addition to our global network of friends and allies.
Along with civil society groups in Iran and Turkey, ICSSI has started a petition to pressure UNESCO to speed up the process to include the Iraqi Marshes as a World Heritage Site and to advocate against the construction of Illisu dam project which poses a great threat to communities around the Tigris river. In addition, they have written an open letter to the Austrian company Andritz which is part of the consortium building the dam, explaining the damaging effects of the dam on the environment and Iraqi livelihood and asking them to withdraw from the project. For a bit of background, read on:
The Ilisu Dam is the largest hydroelectric power plant planned by the Turkish government, and, if built, would impact the right to food and water of thousands of people in and around the planned reservoir as well as downstream. It also threatens approx. 400 km² of precious riverine ecosystems hosting numerous endangered species. The dam will completely or partially flood 199 villages and hundreds of historical sites, including the antique city of Hasankeyf, as well as the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq which are the homes of up to 78,000 people. Additionally, 30,000 nomads would suffer directly. All inhabited regions along the Tigris River would be affected seriously. Losses of flowing water by up to 50% will impact Iraq, where half of the population is dependant upon the Tigris river.
Considered one of the Arab region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, Iraq faces a unique set of environmental challenges. And while this dam campaign might not be as directly related to our climate struggle as our current campaign to end fossil fuel subsidies, there are common threads here. Just like climate change, this Ilsu dam is a man-made undertaking which risks to tip the natural balance and impact people’s ability to survive in their homeland, as well as threaten to wipe out their cultural heritage. And big dams actually do contribute to climate change and carry a number of other climate-related issues along with them -- see here for more.
So welcome ICSSI to the 350 community and best of luck with the petition to call upon the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to take action against the construction of the Ilisu Dam.
More on the climate movement in Iraq to come.