Iraq: Learning from India on water resource management

Apr 21, 2013

imageMahi Irrigation system, Gujarat, India. Photo by: UNDP Iraq

Climate change and the legacies of war and sanctions have placed an enormous strain on Iraq’s water resources. As the availability of fresh water declines and the potential for resource-driven conflict emerges, UNDP is working with Iraqis to incorporate the principles of participation into how limited resources are managed.

“Participatory water and irrigation management will resolve 60 to 70% of Iraq’s water challenges, if embraced by the larger farming community,” said Hussein Baga, Director-General of the Ministry of Water Resources upon return from a recent tour to India. The visit focused on overseeing water availability, and sought to relay the experiences of the Indian Government in managing water, particularly to mitigate potential conflicts. “Improving how Iraq controls and uses its water resources will have a profound effect on its efforts to reduce poverty and enhance the country’s development prospects,” said Peter Batchelor, UNDP Iraq’s Country Director. 

The Iraqi delegation was briefed on how the central and local governments in India manage their water, and consulted with local water committees from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, which have a combined population of 140 million people. In India, bodies of water, unless shared between states, fall under the control of central government. Therefore, the allocation of water and any disputes at the local level are handled by a government forum. When disputes persist, the central government establishes a special tribunal to adjudicate the issue. Each state in India also has its own Water and Irrigation Department that implements broad national policies on water and agriculture.

Experts from Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources and representatives from the governorates of Babil, Diyala and Muthanna, who share part of the Euphrates river basin, attended the study tour.

The two countries are now looking to deepen their engagement and continue exchanging knowledge on their mutual challenges relating to water management. Ahmad Barwari, the Ambassador of Iraq to India, informed the delegation that Iraq’s Minister of Water Resources, Mohanad S. al Sadi, will visit India again and said it could lead to future South-South cooperation between the two nations.

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