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Climate-change were you are.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote carbon20 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 8 hours 42 minutes ago at 2:55pm
Iraq's Edenic marshlands are drying out again
The famed Marshlands of Mesopotamia, hailed by many as the location of the biblical Garden of Eden, once covered some 20,000 square kilometres. They were almost completely drained by Saddam Hussein in the 1990's, and now, after more than a decade of reflooding efforts, they are drying out again.

The World
By Tracey Shelton

Updated Sat at 6:24am

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A woman walks across dry land leading water buffalo
The Central Marsh, pictured above, used to be full of water and life. Now, many locals have been forced to migrate from the cracked, bare earth that surrounds their villages. This time, climate change, poor water management, and dams further upstream are among the culprits.

Forget the Palestinian issue. That's a joke compared to what's coming. Water is life!

Azzam Alwash, Iraqi engineer and environmentalist
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VIDEO: Mr Alwash says the water crisis could be key to the future of the Middle East (The World)
Mr Alwash has led reflooding efforts in the marshlands, and he warns that without proper management, the situation will present "the next crisis" for Iraq after the fall of the Islamic State.

The marshes were completely dried almost 30 years ago by Saddam because they were a natural haven for political resistance. It is our Sherwood Forest [Robin Hood] — it is where rebels went to hide and Saddam was afraid the opposition would be used by the West to undermine his rule. As such, he went about depriving the marshes of their source of life, building thousands of kilometres of embankments to hold the waters of the Euphrates away from the marshes."

Azzam Alwash
It took Saddam five years to drain the vast wetlands back in the nineties, but the environmental impact is predicted to last for generations.

A flock of birds fly over the marshes
The drying caused the temperature of the region to increase by 5 per cent, dust storms increased, birds migrated to other countries, and fish died off. The marshlands previously supplied around half of the fish consumed in Iraq.

By the fall of Saddam in 2003 after the launch of the Iraq war, refugees of the area began to return to break down the embankments, but by this point, dam projects up north in Turkey were reducing the amount of water reaching the area.

The biodiversity of the marshes are driven by the natural flood pulses of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that deliver 60 per cent of their water in the spring — the dam systems stopped those pulses.

Boats sit on the banks of a mostly dry marsh area as buffalo graze in the background
While reflooding was possible, the water quality had irreversibly deteriorated meaning only the more hardy fish and animal species could survive in the new marshes.

The marshes had gone down to zero so there was no way but up. But the fact is we have been unable to restore the marshes. We reflooded a large portion, but the biodiversity had changed.

Azzam Alwash
This year, the marshes begun drying again. In some areas, locals say, the water level has been reduced by 50 per cent in just three months.

Jassim Al-Asadi sits in a boat in the marshlands
Jassim Al Asadi, pictured above, was born right in the centre of the marshes. His mother gave birth on a boat while collecting reeds for the family's herd of water buffalo. He now works for Nature Iraq monitoring water quality and conditions in the marshes. He says this year water levels and salinity have reached critical levels.

Fires burn red over a dry marsh area
Mr Asadi says fires are also taking a toll.

Buffalo breeders and reed collectors burn the dry reeds traditionally to allow space for new growth in the spring when the water levels rise. But this year there is no water to control the blaze. Many are burning out of control.

A house made of reeds and mud
Low water levels have stunted transportation which is largely carried out by boat. Reed collectors can no longer reach the good reeds which are used to build houses, feed buffalo and make fishing traps and other items. Mr Asadi says salinity levels have now reached five times the drinkable level, meaning buffalo herders need to travel up to 25 kilometres daily by boat to purchase fresh water for their families and their flocks.

It affects the health of the buffalos and the price of the buffalos. Disease is spreading among the herds because of the quality of the water. Many have died.

A fisherman checks his nets
Mr Asadi says fisherman are also suffering. The quantity and quality of water has reduced fish numbers and sizes.

The income from fishing is now too low for a family to survive on. Many have left the marshlands for other areas of Iraq higher along the Euphrates.

Water buffalo make their way throw muddy shallow water holes
Buffalo breeders are also migrating to areas that have water. Mr Asadi says some villages are now almost empty.

Every economy related to the marshes are affected by drought. All the people are affected.

Children collect reeds from a boat
If nothing is done, Mr Alwash says "agriculture is going to die in the land where it was born".

Iraq's culture has been built on an abundance of water for thousands of years. Our problem has been flooding not lack of water. Suddenly over 25 years — or one generation — our problem converted from floods to arid conditions. Culture does not change that fast and that is the problem. Our culture has not caught up with reality. And it's gonna be a shock.

A child sits holding the horns of a buffalo
The cities of Iraq can not handle the demands of a growing population. Agriculture, energy and other services are lacking. People are already demonstrating in the streets, Mr Alwash says.

Three to four million people who are currently dependant on Iraq's agriculture will have to migrate out. If you think Syrian migration was a huge problem for Europe, wait until the migration from the farms of Iraq starts.

Buffalos wade through the water as boats pass behind
But Mr Alwash believes this crisis presents an opportunity.

I want to build on top of this crisis a cooperation [between nations] to create management for the waters of the region.

A man rides his boat at sunset
Iraq loses about 8 billion cubic metres of water to evaporation as a result of flood control structures, including large shallow lakes built to control the floods. Mr Alwash believes this water can be saved by storing it in Turkey. He says strategic water and energy management between Turkey, Iraq, and in turn the wider region would not only solve the water crisis, but could lead to peaceful cooperation in a region long plagued by war.

Water is life! You can't drink sea water, you can't drink oil — you have to find a solution.

A boat rides along the Euphrates river during golden sunset
Photos by Tracey Shelton and Jassim Al-Asadi

Topics: water-management, water-supply, dams-and-reservoirs, environmental-impact, environmental-management

First posted Sat at 5:59am
12 Monkeys...............
1995 ‧ Science fiction film/Thriller ‧ 2h 11m a must for AFT
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