July 8, 2008

Iraqi Paper Reports Severe Water Shortage

Text of report by Iraqi newspaper Al-Mashriq on 3 July

["Wave of Drought Affects Vast Areas in Iraq"]

Iraq, also known as the land between the two rivers, currently suffers from a severe water shortage, which many farmers say could lead to a wide-scale wave of drought as a result of low rainfall during the winter season and the water policies of neighbouring countries. Many Iraqi farmers said that the wheat and barley crops have declined a lot this year compared to last year due to low rainfall.

Abbas Falih, a farmer from an area in the northern part of Al- Diwaniyah, southern Iraq, said that the water shortage has prevented him from cultivating his land this year.

The fertile areas between the Tigris and Euphrates were among the first areas that knew agriculture in history about 10,000 years ago. However, the rest of lands in Iraq are mostly arid, and agriculture in these lands depends on rainfall.

Water Resources Minister Abd-al-Latif Jamal Rashid said that Iraq is only one of many countries in the world that suffer from water scarcity. Rashid said: Water scarcity and low rainfall affect large parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and a large number of other countries. All countries suffer from water scarcity and low rainfall. In Iraq, the rate of rainfall was less than 30 per cent of the general average during last winter or this year.

The Water Resources Ministry said that there was not a significant amount of rainfall over many parts of the country during the main growing season between October and December. Iraq has gone through worse periods of drought, but there is a stronger impact at present because of the low levels of water in the rivers and dams as a result of the drop in rainfall over several years.

The ministry said that Iraq's total storage of water in dams and lakes has dropped by 9.19 billion cu. m. from the previous year to 22.07 billion cu. m. at present. The water levels have also been affected by the construction of dams in Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Iraqi officials accuse their neighbours of withholding a greater amount than their fair share of water. However, those countries have also been affected by the drought.

Originally published by Al-Mashriq, Baghdad, in Arabic 3 Jul 08.

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