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Impending Catastrophe: Collapse Of Mosul Dam



ISIS poses violent threat to life and liberty. This is well known. CNN in December 2015 estimated that over a two-year period ISIS killed some 1,200 people in Iraq and Syria. But another far greater threat looms: Collapse Of Mosul Dam. Built on the Tigris River in the early 1980s, the unstable ground underneath the dam is constantly eroded by water. For years this has required maintenance by continuously poured cement under the dam’s foundation. Mosul Dam was captured by ISIS militants on August, 2014, and held it for several weeks before recapture. But for the last two years required reinforcement of the foundation continues to be sub par, in particular because ISIS still controls parts of that region.


Remember learning about the Fertile Crescent in grade school? This is exactly the region at risk. Downstream from Mosul Dam is a rich agricultural zone, home to some 1.5 million people, the city of Mosul, population 700,000. “If the dam fails, it will be catastrophic,” Gen. Lloyd Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There will be thousands of people downstream that will either be injured or killed, certainly displaced. And the damage could extend all the way down to — close to Baghdad, or into Baghdad,” lying 200 miles to the south.


Disaster response is an intriguing topic. Some of the allure is similar to that of emergency medicine: action, heroism, immediate results, drama in real life. Disaster risk mitigation, like preventive medicine, lacks the immediate sense of passion and urgency. And it holds promise to preserve not only one thousand lives, but one million.

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