From the beginning of last summer to the end of October, more than 2,000 families were forced to abandon their homes because of the receding marshes, according to the FAO’s El-Hajj Hassan. Some of the displaced have moved to marshy areas that still have water, while others have abandoned their traditional way of life and moved to cities such as Basra or Baghdad.
Tensions among those who remain in the marshes are rising, and security advisers believe that water scarcity, and especially the disappearance of the marshes, could affect national security. According to Eimear Hennessy, a former risk analyst for G4S Consulting, “Thousands of people displaced and impoverished by the ongoing crisis in the Mesopotamian Marshes are more likely to be at risk of recruitment by non-state actors” – militias and terrorists. groups — “that offer promises of an attractive future.”
According to Nature Iraq, the recent drying of the marshes has led to a drop in wildlife diversity, with populations of Binni, a golden-brown fish much-loved by the Arabs of Mars, collapsing. “Two thousand officially registered fishermen have lost their source of income and are now unemployed,” Saleh Hadi, Dhi Qar directorate of agriculture, said in October.
Before the drought, the marbled marbled duck, listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, seemed to thrive in the marshes, as did the endangered Basra reed duck and the barren a native of Iraq. But with water levels falling, Iraq Nature said, these birds are not seen as often.
Livestock is also suffering. It is now difficult to find clean water and enough food for water buffalo, which graze in the rivers; thousands have died from disease and malnutrition. “The lower water levels are having a terrible impact on the buffalo farmers,” said Samah Hadid, a spokesperson for the NRC. “The buffalo breeders we are talking to are getting more and more desperate.”
As the attitude worse for communities in the Iraqi marshland, non-governmental organizations are promoting activities that could reduce the impact of the drought, including investment in filtration and water treatment systems for areas with high levels of salinity. They are pushing the Iraqi authorities, at the national and regional level, to collect more data on water flows and the impacts of the shortage, and to improve aquifer regulation to prevent over-pumping, which reduces the quantity and quality of groundwater.
The Iraqi government is supplying some grain farmers with salt-tolerant wheat; breeders are working on drought tolerant sugar beets; and academics are advocating programs that offer conflict management training to communities struggling to share water resources fairly.
For years, Iraq has been negotiating with its upstream neighbors to allow more water to flow across its border, but the situation has not improved. In January 2022, Iraq announced that it would sue Iran in the International Court of Justice for cutting off its access to water, but the case has not progressed. Last July, Iraq asked Turkey to increase the amount of water that flows south into Iraq. Both sides agreed that a “technical delegation” from Iraq would visit Turkey to assess water levels behind Turkish dams, but Turkey did not accept responsibility for Iraq’s water shortage. Instead, Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Ali Riza Güney, accused Iraqis of “squandering” their water resources and called on the nation to reduce water waste and modernize its irrigation systems.
The new year is expected to bring below-average rainfall to the region, according to the UN’s World Food Program and the FAO. With worsening climate change impacts and no foreseeable improvement in water management, the outlook looks bleak for Iraq’s Mesopotamian Marshes and the communities that depend on them.