By Richard High27 February 2008
Iraq's largest dam is at risk of an imminent collapse that could send a 20 m high wave of water into Mosul, a city of 1.7 million people, according to the latest assessment by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The results of the assessment and the latest report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) show that in May the US told Iraqi authorities to make Mosul Dam a national priority. SIGIR's report is also critical of a US$ 27 million reconstruction project designed to help shore up the dam, which has made almost no progress.
It also said US–funded “short–term solutions” had yet to significantly solve the dam's problems. SIGIR found failures in many of the contracts awarded to repair the dam. Among the failings were sub–standard construction and delivery of improper parts, as well as projects that were not completed despite full payments having been made.
The dam has been a problem for Iraqi engineers since it was completed in 1984. Built on water–soluble gypsum, which caused seepage within months of its completion, it was described “fundamentally flawed” by engineers at the time.