by Aamna Mohdin
With no clear end in sight to Syria’s protracted war, civilians are now also being threatened by a catastrophic flood.
The United Nations warned earlier this week that the Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest (paywall), is in serious trouble not only from the militant group ISIL, which has controlled the dam since 2014, but also from US-led air strikes and high water levels. At 200 feet tall and three miles long, the dam controls the Euphrates River roughly 40 km (25 miles) upstream of the city of Raqqa. Water levels on the river have risen by 10 meters since Jan. 24 as a result of heavy rainfall, snow, and deliberate sabotage by ISIL.
“Any further rise of the water level would submerge huge swathes of agricultural land along the river and could potentially damage the Tabqa Dam, which would have catastrophic humanitarian implications in all areas downstream,” the UN report noted.
As Iraqi forces continue their military operation to take Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), another equally important battle to save the Mosul Dam, located 60km north of Mosul, is under way.
After six months of frantic security and logistical preparations, an Italian company has kicked off the repair works to beef up the dam, under the protection of five hundred Italian soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The Italian company,TREVI, will have about 18 months to prevent the foundations of the dam from plunging deeper underground, averting an impending catastrophe. Experts warn that if the dam collapses, up to 11.11 billion cubic-metres of water known as Lake Dahuk, will submerge Mosul and create an inundation that will affect the lives of millions of people living along the banks of the Tigris river.