More Basra water crises unless Iraq government fixes ‘failures’: HRW

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday warned of a repeat of last year’s deadly water crisis in Iraq’s oil-rich southern province of Basra unless authorities correct decades of management failures.

Nearly 120,000 people were hospitalised last summer after drinking polluted water, in a mass health crisis that sparked deadly protests against the dire state of public services.

In a damning report, HRW found the generally poor state of water quality was likely compounded by algae that rapidly spread last year in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that runs through Basra and provides it with its primary water source.

It indicated that the algae, pollution and high salination could together have sparked the mass health crisis.

“These combined failures violate Basra residents’ rights to water, sanitation, health, information, and property guaranteed under international and national law,” it said.

HRW slammed Iraqi officials as “short-sighted”, saying they had not properly communicated with citizens about the emergency at the time, nor released the results of probes in the year since or dealt with underlying causes.