October 14, 2021
By Charlotte Bruneau and Thaier Al-Sudani
Iraqi Chebaish Wetlands (Reuters) – On an island surrounded by narrow waterways in the Chebaish Wetlands in southern Iraq, Saba Tamer al-Baha rises with the sun and milks herds of buffalo.
This summer was tough for his two fathers, Baha. According to the United Nations, Iraq’s 2020-2021 rainfall season was the second driest in 40 years, with wetland salinity rising to dangerous levels.
The animal became ill and died, and Baher was forced to buy fresh drinking water for his own herd of about 20 buffaloes, his only source of income.
Another drought is predicted in 2023, as climate change, pollution and upstream dams will keep Iraq trapped in the cycle of repeated water crises.
“The swamp is our life. If the drought continues, we will not exist because our life depends on water and buffalo breeding,” says 37-year-old Baha.
Baha and his family are Marsh Arabs, indigenous peoples of the wetlands who migrated in the 1990s when Saddam Hussein dammed and drained the wetlands and ousted the rebels hiding in the reeds.
After his capsize in 2003, the swamp was partially re-flooded and many Marsh Arabs, including Baha’s family, returned.
However, wetland fragile ecosystems are out of balance, endangering biodiversity and livelihoods, said wetland-born environmentalist Jasim al-Assadi.
“The less water you have, the more salt you have,” said Christoph Shobo, a French veterinarian who surveyed swamps for agronomists and veterinarians without borders. He added that milk production will also decrease.
According to the Max Planck Society, temperatures in the Middle East during the summer have risen above 0.5 degrees Celsius per decade, about twice the global average.
Iraq’s neighbors are also suffering from droughts and rising temperatures, leading to regional water conflicts. The Ministry of Water said that water flows from Iran and Turkey fell by 50 percent throughout the summer earlier this year.
Then there is the problem of pollution coming from upstream. In 2019, the government announced that 5 million cubic meters of raw sewage per day was pumped directly into the Tigris River, one of the rivers that water Iraqi wetlands.
Environmentalist Azzam Alwash said Iraq’s long-term water management strategy is urgent, as the rapidly growing population of about 40 million is estimated to double by 2050. Said.
Aoun Dhiab, a spokesman for the Ministry of Fisheries, said the government’s strategy is to protect deeper and more permanent waters of wetlands for a minimum of 2,800 square kilometers (1080 square miles).
“This is what we are planning to protect permanent water bodies to conserve ecological and fish stocks,” he said.
Diab said the wetland’s water level has improved partially since summer, less evaporation due to lower temperatures, and the wetland naturally contracts and expands with the seasons.
He also said that when drinking water was scarce in the summer, the government could not allocate any more water to the swamps.
“Of course, swamp people want more water, but we need to prioritize. The priorities are for drinking water, local governments, and the conservation of the Shatt al-Arab River.” He said.
Shatt al-Arab River drought and pollution caused a crisis in southern Iraq in 2018, with thousands hospitalized for water-borne infections http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-protests-water -idUSKCN1M624L).
Nevertheless, the result is punishable for Marsh Arabs. As the youngest daughter is held in her arms and drinking buffalo milk from the feeder, Baher watches over her nephew’s tendency to become a sick buffalo.
In the summer, some of Baha’s relatives moved herds deeper into low-salt swamps, but were forced to share space for their families to shrink, competing for the best. rice field.
Wetland current population estimates vary widely http://www.reuters.com/article/us-un-heritage-iraq-idUSKCN0ZX0SN. When it reached 400,000 in the 1950s, about 250,000 returned when the wetlands were re-flooded.
This year, reduced water supplies have moved farmers to cities where lack of work and services has caused protests in the past, but Baher, like many other young nomads, stays here. I hope I can do it.
“I felt like a stranger in the city,” he said, remembering when the swamp was drained. “When the water returned to the swamp, we regained our freedom.”
(Report by Charlotte Bruneau and Thaier Al-Sudani, edited by Raissa Kasolowsky)
“Our life depends on water”: climate change, pollution and dams threaten Iraq’s Marsh Arabs
Source link “Our life depends on water”: climate change, pollution and dams threaten Iraq’s Marsh Arabs