Mesopotamia is one of the regions most severely affected by water scarcity in the world. It is currently seeing an increased competition over water resources, and the construction of disruptive megaprojects continues: Iraq, in particular, faces huge challenges. Ilisu Dam in Turkey and Daryan Dam in Iran are set to have a destructive impact on the water flows to Iraq.
For five years, the Save the Tigris Campaign has been advocating to halt the construction of these large dams, safeguard the preservation of heritage on the banks of the Tigris River – in particular the Iraqi Marshes – and for the equitable use of water for all those who live in the Mesopotamian region.
Our campaign has established a unique network of Iraqi and international activists from Turkey, Iran, and other countries. Within this network, a well-established group of young local water activists from all over Iraq has been integrated, providing a North-South exchange of experiences and best practices in river activism.
The Save the Tigris Campaign is now an important information platform, through our website as well as original research that we conduct. In 2016, the Iraqi Marshes were inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List after years of campaigning – a big step towards sustainable preservation of these wetlands.
We continue to oppose large dams, exploring legal actions, mobilizing civil society and raising awareness among communities about the adverse impacts of dams and potential conflicts over water. Our campaign is one of the first initiatives in the region to propose an alternative to dams and conflict. We highlight the value of water, and believe that the Tigris River can accommodate equal shares of water for everyone in Mesopotamia and act as a force for peace.
Toon Bijnens is a Belgian activist based in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. He is the international coordinator of Save the Tigris and Iraqi Marshes Campaign, an Iraqi and international civil society coalition with the aim to save the heritage of the Tigris and others rivers in Mesopotamia from the impacts of megaprojects. In addition, Bijnens manages projects related to water rights and other civil society issues for the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) In Iraq and has published on environmental migration and river heritage protection in Iraq.