Sunday, October 4, 2009

Iraq’s 2009 Drought

Iraq is facing a drought again. Officially, it has been going on for the last two years. Unofficially the United Nations says four. The lack of rain, no government water policy, and population growth are the main causes, but Baghdad has been blaming its neighbors as well. Iran, Syria, and Turkey have all built dams that affect Iraq’s two main rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, along with smaller tributaries. Iraq needs 500 cubic meters per second from both major rivers according to the Water Ministry, but as of August 2009 was only receiving 440 cubic meters per second from the Euphrates and 100-160 cubic meters from the Tigris. All four countries have been holding meetings over water issues, with few results.

Together these problems are having larger and larger effects upon Iraq’s agriculture, rural areas, and power supply. Iraq’s rice production has dropped from 500,000 tons per year to 250,000 tons. Wheat has declined from 3.5 million tons to 1 million tons. As a result, Iraq has become one of the largest food importers in the world, when it was self-sufficient in the 1980s. It will need to import 4 million tons of wheat alone this year, at a cost of $1.4 billion. Overall, Iraq will have to buy 80% of its food needs this year. The drought is also leading to population shifts. 3,000 people in Basra have left their homes because of rising salt levels in the land. In Ninewa, 60 out of 150 villages in the Al-Tal district are deserted in what was once the most productive wheat and barley area of the province. 90% of the land is also desert or suffering from desertification. A report by the European Water Associated warned that Iraq could become barren like Saudi Arabia if something isn’t done. Hydroelectric power production is also down. In the city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province, two of four turbines have been shut down because water levels are so low.

With no government planning, little money to support farmers, minimal international aid, and a lack of cooperation so far from its neighbors, Iraq’s water situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. More rain is likely to be the only respite, otherwise it will face another year of drought, whose effects are spreading from the countryside to Iraq’s cities with migration, decreased power production, and food imports.

Farmland Affected
Affected farmland 36,919 square kilometers
Total farmland 96,706 square kilometers
% of affected farmland 38.7%
Babil, Irbil, Ninewa, Salahaddin, Tamim, – 46-56%
Dhi Qar, Diyala, Maysan – 31-45%
Baghdad, Karbala, Najaf, Qadisiyah – 26-30%
Anbar, Basra, Muthanna, Wasit – 6-25%
Sulaymaniya – 4-5%
Dohuk – 0%


Blua, Antoine, “Iraq Tussles With Neighbors Over Water,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 9/13/09

Chulov, Martin, “Water shortage threatens two million people in southern Iraq,” Guardian, 8/26/09

DiPaola, Anthony and Alexander, Caroline, “Iraq Drought Cuts Harvest, Boosts Imports as Oil Cash Slips,” Bloomberg, 8/5/09

Hope, Bradley, “Iraq digs in to rebuild agricultural sector,” The National, 8/30/09

Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “The Humanitarian Situation In Iraq, Inter-Agency Fact Sheet,” United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 2009

IRIN, “IRAQ: Drought hits rice, wheat staples,” 8/31/09b

Kamal, Adel, “desertification destroys ninawa villages,” Niqash, 7/17/09

Raphaeli, Dr. Nimrod, “Water Crisis in Iraq: The Growing Danger of Desertification,” The Middle East Media Institute, 7/23/09

Sly, Liz, “Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say,” Los Angeles Times, 7/30/09

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09

Tharp, Mike, “Once world’s bread basket, Iraq now a farming basket case,” McClatchy Newspapers, 7/17/09

Williams, Timothy, “Idle Iraqi Date Farm Show Decline of Economy,” New York Times, 8/15/09


Anonymous said...

born Iraq, after the 2nd Gulf war there very evident that US used some sort chemicals (herbicide)seen gate trees dies slowly with top green head turned down and die.

This is never been seen before in Iraq history of dates all farmers people don't know what's happening.

But not hard now to tell is spraying dusting herbicide the trees from the sky will do the damage we witnessed specially the US/UK non fly zone scenario made Iraqi sky open to them to do the dirty work as 13 years of sanction all agree was to dismantled state of Iraq not regime change.

Unknown said...

Top scientists say revolutionary clean power climate control project will reduce wildfires and dangerous weather while improving the lives of billions of people.

Climatologists, biologists and physicists from all corners of the globe agree that U.S. based Gravitational Systems, L.L.C.'s revolutionary clean power climate control project INDRA will improve the lives of billions of people around the world. Concerns have been raised about the projects impact on biodiversity as deserts are terraformed to rainforests.

Gare Henderson, director of research and development for Gravitational Systems, L.L.C. ( a clean power developer), explains that the INDRA project, a proposed network of specialized evaporation channels moving sea water from the oceans toward the deserts, will convert world deserts into biodiverse rainforests. Deserts which cover 1/3 of all dry land will be terraformed into productive land. The INDRA systems will give mankind control of the weather, ending dangerous storms such as hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, and dry heat waves within a decade. Vast rivers can be turned on and off in hours, and reservoirs and salt marshes drained or replenished in days. The increased bio-mass of the terraformed deserts will begin to reverse both global warming and thermal sea level rise. UNFCCC cap and trade certification of the INDRA project will allow individuals and business to fund the plan through carbon offsets. The initial projects will be targeted north American, and north African deserts.

Anonymous said...

Gare H,

The case of Iraq Drought and its Marshes and other farm hood southern Iraq is environmental destruction by many neighbouring countries acts

Iran changes/ diverted two fresh water reveres supplying the area one of them Al-Karoon reviver.

Syria and Turkey decrease the water flow to Euphrates and tigress reveres beyond International law agreements.

Kurds encouraged some reports by some Israeli consultant to reserve water between mountains to make new resorts in the Kurds area with taking care or responsibility for the reset of Iraq.

All above have nothing to do with climate control or Climatologists, biologists and physicists thoughts.

Let not forgot when the tyrant dough out marsh in 1990 most of those Climatologists, biologists and physicists voices came loud as Destroying the Environment is a War Crime so were are they today from what happening by deliberate environmental destruction happing now in Iraq?

Joel Wing said...

Iraqis and outside experts agree that even if Iraq's neighbors weren't diverting rivers, there would still be a drought and major problems in the country. In Kurdistan for example, many farmers rely upon rainfall alone for their crops. Salinity and desertification have also been growing problems over the years, plus Iraq's farmers are 20 years behind in farming techniques, don't have the power or fuel to always keep their pumps going to irrigate their fields, etc. The government also provides little to no help.

Michael Maxey said...

Dubus bug is the primary problem in date plantations. Spraying by Iraqi government is to control the predation from this pest. Iraq has essentially lost the date export market but since there are extensive plantations, the government continues to spray for Dubus bug infestation.

There are those (USDA) that argue that there is sufficient water and requires only proper management to provide the water resources needed for the agriculture sector. My experience is that this is a complicated issue and is aggravated by the lack of an official water policy and a proper pricing of water resources. Water is "free" to everyone but the supply is inconsistent. This forces farmers to produce less lucrative basic grains because they are more drought tolerant. There is significant demand for fresh fruit and vegetables which would could be produced economically if there were secure access to water at a known price.

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Bardenwerper, Will, The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards and What History Leaves Unsaid , Scribner, 2017   Wh...