55% of Iraq’s cultivable land faces desertification due to water shortage

A farmer harvests wheat with a combine machine, at a farm near Jaliha village in Iraq’s central Diwaniya province, on April 26, 2022. – After decades of war and insurgency, Iraq faces another huge challenge: severe water scarcity driven by climate change, whose impacts are felt on a daily basis, from depleted rivers to rapid desertification and more intense sandstorms. Then came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, driving up the cost of fuel, seeds and fertiliser. (Photo by Haidar INDHAR / AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture warned on Saturday that 55% of cultivable land is encountering desertification threats.   

The general directorate of forest and anti-desertification in the Agriculture Ministry of Iraq said that, the agriculture sector including farming and cultivation relies on water for growing, but water shortage caused a severe threat to all of the sectors.

“Low rainfalls and water flow blockage inside neighborhood countries have marked negative gloomy impact on the outage of agriculture productions,” an official in the Ministry told the state news agency (INA).

Iraq’s main sources of water are the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, providing 98% of the country’s surface water. Both rivers originate in Turkey, while the Euphrates passes through Syria, and some tributaries flow through Iran.

Turkey and Iran are holding back water to fill reservoirs behind dams that both countries have built in the past years.

“Nearly 27 million dunums of lands have desertified in Iraq which is equivalent to %15 of the country’s territory, while %55 of lands are undergoing threats of desertifying” INA quoted the official.

Iraq suffers an extreme drought for the third year in a row due to low rainfalls, the country is classified as one of the world’s five countries most vulnerable to climate change and desertification, it also witnesses water shortages in many areas.

The country’s agriculture sector, dependent largely on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, has also suffered from drought and rising heat. Iraq’s 2020-2021 rainfall season was the second driest in 40 years, according to the United Nations.

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