ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Tabqa Dam, already damaged by war, is now at risk of flooding due to rising water levels in the Euphrates River, the UN warned on Wednesday.
Heavy rain and snowfall combined with ISIS opening three turbines of the dam have resulted in water levels in the Euphrates River rising by about 10 metres in the last three weeks, according to a UN report seen by Reuters.
“As per local experts, 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 report read.
Tabqa Dam has already been damaged by ISIS militants who have deliberately destroyed infrastructure, and in coalition airstrikes carried out in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling ISIS on the ground in northern Syria.
The UN warned that if the dam is further damaged, it “could lead to massive scale flooding across Ar-Raqqa and as far away as Deir-ez-Zor.”
Raqqa, which had a population of 220,000 in 2012, is located 25 kilometres downriver from Tabqa Dam. Deir Ez-zur is a further 125 kilometres along the Euphrates River.
Earth-filled Tabqa Dam, the largest in Syria, has been under control of ISIS since 2013. The extremist group has used it as a headquarters, prison, and training centre.
The SDF are within a few kilometres of the dam.