This year’s drought was severe and unprecedented.. Mesopotamia is thirsty and these are the reasons
The farmer Khamis Abbas closed the doors of his house, and left his land in his village in the Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq, to live with his family in a popular neighborhood in the city of Mosul, where he suffers from unemployment. They are suffering from drought caused by climate change.
Khamis, 42, from one of the city’s cafés, says that “cultivating wheat and barley is now like a lottery game,” as it “depends on rain, which, if available, will reap the fruits of the land.”
The drought this year was severe and severe to an unprecedented extent for the farmers of Nineveh, which is considered the bread basket of Iraq as it includes vast agricultural areas amounting to 6 million dunams and agriculture depends on rainwater.
Samah Hadid of the Norwegian Refugee Council, a non-governmental organization, explains that with the “record drop in rainfall and the decline in water flow” from its historic rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, following the construction of dams by neighboring Iran and Turkey, Iraq “is facing the worst drought crisis in its modern era.”
And year after year, the water crisis in Iraq increases with the decline in rainfall rates and the extension of drought, until Iraq has become the “fifth country in the world” most affected by climate change, according to the United Nations.
To the north in the Dohuk governorate in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the lack of rain caused the entire Zawia dam to dry out, which led to the spoilage of fig and pomegranate crops in the neighboring fields, and caused great damage to about 25 farmers such as Bahjat Bazid Yousef.
The man, who has been farming for 21 years, said, “Because of the drought of the dam, my farm suffered a great deal of material damage. Most of the fig trees were damaged and about 5 to 6 thousand grape dahlias dried up.”
The dam depends on snow and rain water, but the director of irrigation in Dohuk province Heza Abdul Wahed explains that “the rain was very little last season.”
Lots of earthquakes
In the south of the country, earthquakes and aftershocks – which have been striking Iraq for two years as a result of the disruption of the earth’s layers – have made the stock of wells and lakes drop to dangerous levels, such as the accelerated decline in the level of the historic Sawa Lake in the desert of Muthanna Governorate. The drying up lake is fed by aquifers that extend under the western region.
The Director of the Environment of Al-Muthanna Governorate, Yousef Sawadi Jabbar, explains the water scarcity in Sawa Lake, as “the earthquakes led to the closure of the channels, underground streams and water springs that feed the lake,” as well as “evaporation resulting from the significant rise in temperatures,” so “the lake is subject to total drought.” “.
Muthanna Governorate suffers from chronic water scarcity, and because the majority of the region’s residents depend on agriculture, water scarcity has caused them to fall below the national poverty line, so rural groups began to flee the region, after 22 locations in the governorate recorded water shortages in the most active and cultivated areas. In 2019 alone, 132 families were displaced from the area.
The governor of Muthanna Ahmed Manfi explains this situation by saying, “We have been hit by drought and the lack of rain for 10 years, so our farmers have become unemployed, and because the state has not succeeded in providing sufficient water, the illiteracy and unemployment rate has risen, and poverty indicators have reached 52%, which is the highest among governorates of Iraq.
As for the office of the Ministry of Planning in Muthanna, the rural unemployment rate has reached 75%, while it has decreased in the city to 23%, with an increase in the average size of one family in the governorate to 8 people.
Among the most prominent admissions of the future catastrophe is what the President of the Republic, Barham Salih, admitted that “7 million Iraqis will actually be affected by drought and forced displacement” as a result of climate change.
It is ironic that Iraq celebrates this year 2021 the centenary of the founding of its modern state in conjunction with environmental challenges that threaten its existence. In just a hundred years, its ecosystem is on the verge of collapse, and the level of water flow in its historical rivers has decreased to less than 10 times, after it was recorded in the year 1920 flows at 1,350 cubic meters per second, which is less than 150 cubic meters per second in 2021.
The water flows to Iraq decreased rapidly after 2003, that is, since Turkey and Iran began monopolizing the hydrological resources. The green areas decreased and the desertified lands expanded, which resulted in an increase in the number of dust storms throughout the country, which now extends to 220 days per year.
Pollution accelerates dehydration
Government environmental indicators do not recognize that Iraq contributes to the problem of global climate warming, contrary to what the International Energy Agency says is responsible for about 8% of global methane emissions resulting from oil and gas investment.
Often clouds of methane wander in the airspace of Iraq due to the unclean extraction of oil. In July 2021, the Paris-based company Kayrros, which analyzes European Space Agency satellite data to track emissions, revealed that a field in western Basra was releasing methane at a rate of 73 tons per hour, following two other methane emissions in mid-June. Last June, halfway between Basra and Baghdad, at a rate of 181 and 197 tons per hour. To be clear, the release of 180 tons of methane per hour is equivalent to global warming caused by the average annual emissions of more than 200,000 cars in the UK, according to Bloomberg’s comment on the incident.
The Ministry of Environment confirms that the country is at the center of the violent effects of the phenomenon that will lead in the next two decades to destroy the Iraqi environment and make it unviable due to the excessive increase in temperature, lack of rain, lack of surface and ground water, intensification of dust storms, desertification, soil erosion, and loss of diversity. environmental. All this means a decline in agricultural areas and a breakdown of food security chains.
Waste of water resources
Iraq consumes more than 63% of its water resources on agriculture without meeting its domestic need for crops, and often depends on imports from abroad, which means that there is water wastage that is not matched by an abundance of productivity.
The head of the Agriculture and Water Committee in the Iraqi parliament, Salam Al-Shammari, stresses that the agricultural techniques in Iraq are primitive, as the ministries of agriculture and water resources did not use modern irrigation techniques in order to rationalize consumption, so there is a great waste of water with a weak agricultural output.
Agriculture accounts for about 4% of GDP and contributes about 20% of the labor market, mostly in the countryside. Because of the effects of the climate, decreasing water and the intensification of armed conflicts, agricultural production has decreased by about 40% since 2014. The World Bank estimates that two-thirds of Iraq’s farmers had access to irrigation sources before that year, but after 3 years, this percentage had dropped to only 20% , which also caused the loss of 75% of livestock such as sheep, goats and buffaloes.
In addition to agricultural waste, Iraq annually loses 14.7% of its water reserves as a result of evaporation due to high temperatures, which is a very high rate compared to other consumption rates. Lake Tharthar in the western province of Anbar – the largest industrial water reservoir in Iraq – evaporates more than 50% of its stored water. As for the marshes, which are the largest natural water bodies and heritage wetlands in the Middle East, evaporation wastes about 75 cubic meters per second per day.
According to the local administration of Suq al-Shuyoukh district, south of Nasiriyah, the center of Dhi Qar governorate, it calculated the loss of 4.5 billion cubic meters of water due to evaporation and high temperature in the summer of 2017 only.
Buffaloes are on the verge of extinction
The buffalo is one of the most important rare wealth of the marsh dwellers, but today they are on the verge of losing it forever. Because of salinity and high temperatures, large numbers of it died. According to the latest government estimates, the number of buffaloes has fallen from 1.2 million to less than 200,000.
Iraq has long struggled to inscribe the historical marshes on the World Heritage List in 2016. This may have been a soft way to ensure more water flow to protect an archaeological site from extinction, but it seems that this ancient region is now on the brink of death. The salinity rate in various parts of the marshes has reached a “dangerous level of deadly pollution as a result of drought,” which led to “a massive migration of local people into the central marshes, and the buffalo is now vulnerable to extinction,” according to Jassim al-Asadi, a consultant in the Nature Iraq organization concerned with the environment. the marshes.