Seven million people at risk but Iraqi officials dismiss threat as far-fetched. A lake held back by a water-soluble foundation. Military and political clashes. Hundreds of sinkholes. An unstable situation that time isn't going to help.
'Instability' at the Mosul Dam in Iraq, about 60 kilometers nor of Mosul, is defined in two ways - and each definition includes catastrophic consequences if the dam fails. And it will only take a failure of 26 percent of the dam to become a disaster.
In a report from Al Jazeera, experts say that if the dam collapses up to 11.11 billion cubic meters of water will submerge Mosul and affect 7 million people living along the Tigris River. Experts who met last April to warn, "The question is not if the dam will collapse due to current factors, but when," said the scientists, convened by the Peace Ambassadors for Iraq, in their final statement. "The reality of a deluge of almost biblical proportions rushing down the Tigris River, killing millions of people, is very apparent and time is running out ."
Attempts to repair the 35-year old dam are thwarted by poor initial construction which placed the dam's foundation on water-soluble gypsum and limestone, and the discovery of hundreds of sinkholes north of the dam.
Funding for reconstruction and repair work were siphoned off by corrupt officials, materials and equipment never arrived, and overall mismanagement during the first Gulf War led to a report by the US Corps, in 2006, warned that the conditions of the dam were extremely precarious. "In terms of internal erosion potential of the foundation, Mosul Dam is the most dangerous dam in the world," said the Corps. "If a small problem at Mosul Dam occurs, failure is likely."
Instability of another kind is threatening the Mosul Dam. ISIS gained control of the dam for two weeks in August, 2014, during which time most of the equipment on the site was stolen or destroyed. Technicians went home, work stopped.
Now, an Italian company named TREVI is attempting to repair the dam, using a procedure called grouting. The company has about 18 months and $300 million to stop the dam's foundations from sinking deeper underground while under threats from ISIS. Italy has said it would send troops to protect the dam and workers, but was rebuffed by an Iraqi religious leader.
It is a bad situation that is only getting worse. What options are available to avert disaster? Read Barbara Bibbo's article here:
The Mystery of Mosul Dam the Most Dangerous Dam in the World is also available here: