The International Organization for Migration (ION) recently released survey results on the continued migration of Iraqis out of rural areas because of their changing environment. It found that over 68,000 people have been displaced in southern Iraq across 10 provinces.
The main causes of the migration have been a three year drought, land degradation due to poor management and rising salinity levels in the land and water. This has reduced farming with the United Nations reporting that wheat production for instance dropped 56% from 2020-21 to 2021-22.
The IOMs survey found that 68,670 people were displaced in ten provinces in southern Iraq. The main provinces hit were Dhi Qar with 3,787 displaced families, Maysan with 3,193 families, Qadisiya with 1,549 families and Muthanna with 1,184 families. 38% moved within their district, but 77% migrated to urban areas. Most of the latter have gone to Najaf and Karbala with fewer heading towards Basra.
Migration from rural to urban areas has gone on for decades in Iraq. It used to be driven by the semi-feudal system the British created in the countryside during the Mandate years. That led to mass poverty amongst the peasantry leading many to move away to seek better opportunities in the cities especially Baghdad. Today the causes have changed but the process has continued.
This has put added strain on services such as housing and jobs which Baghdad has failed to meet because the ruling elite are not interested in governing. Rather than believing that they are there to serve the public they are only interested in enriching themselves and feel that the people are there to serve them. That means neither the environmental nor urban dilemmas will be dealt with any time soon.
IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, “Climate-Induced Displacement - Southern Iraq,” 12/15/22
Tripp, Charles, A History of Iraq, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2007
World Food Programme, “Iraq Market Monitor Report,” October 20222