Water is scarce in Iraq
The human body is 60 percent water; there are good reasons why we need it. It is a well-known fact that the human body can only survive for about three days without water. For this reason, water is critical for life in dry climates.
Iraqis live in a hot, dry climate, and the summer months can be brutal. They are now facing a water shortage that is exacerbated by many factors. Traditionally they had the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to provide enough water to make up for the summer heat. These rivers provide Iraq with 90 percent of their fresh water, and it’s at a historic low level right now. Winter rains were sparse, and the snowmelt from the mountains of southern Turkey did not feed these rivers with enough water. To make matters far worse, neighboring Turkey also has a water shortage, and they are responding by building dams. They now have 22 dams which prevent water from reaching the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
The results can potentially be tragic. There won’t be enough water to irrigate farmland. Fortunately, Iraq had a bumper crop in 2019, but that won’t help them in 2021, and as water becomes increasingly salty, it will be less safe to drink for people or livestock.
Iraq’s lakes have far less water than in previous decades. The man-made Lake Hamrin has lost almost 70 percent of its water. Lake Hamrin now holds 350 million cubic meters of water, down from nearly 3 billion in 2018. Anticipating not having enough water for crops, Iraq’s agricultural ministry has ordered farmers not to plant rice, corn and vegetables this summer. Only orchards will get water. Those who make a living through livestock are in even a worse position, especially the nomadic Bedouins.
In the south of Iraq is Muthanna Province, home of Bedouins who make their living through their camels and other livestock. They are used to having the sandy soil turn to grasslands for their livestock in April, but because there was little rain this past spring, the sand remains without vegetation. Many had to sell livestock, leaving them with smaller herds and less wealth. Their sons are fleeing to the cities to take any menial job they can find. In other parts of southern Iraq, the Marsh Arabs are facing a similar predicament as their water supply becomes too salty for their buffalos. The animals die, and they have to move to cities like Basra where they face either underemployment or unemployment.
- The National News, May 25, 2021
- Aljazeera, April 28, 2021
- Aljazeera, May 29, 2021
Image courtesy: Farhang Ahmed, Unsplash.com