Southern Iraq's long-standing marshland is facing its bleakest hour in over 40 years, the United Nations announced with dread on Monday. Reports indicate a drastic and frighteningly sudden decrease in both water levels and the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to the unrelenting drought.
The news incites fear in Iraq, a country ranked by the UN as one of five countries facing the extreme effects of climate change. The unforgiving summer heat and frequent dust storms only add to the dismay of local farmers, buffalo herders, and fishermen, who must now bear witness to the decline of their cherished marshes.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a statement of deep concern, citing "alarming field reports" from their staff combined with data from the Iraqi agriculture ministry. In Chibayish alone, the water level of the Euphrates has dropped to just 56 centimeters, while large portions of the marshes are now completely void of water.
A shocking sight met the eyes of an AFP journalist; thousands of fish lay dead and motionless along the banks of the Amshan River in Majar al-Kabir, Maysan province. The environmental campaigner Ahmed Saleh Neema declared this tragedy a consequence of rising temperatures that evaporated the river's water, leaving nothing but a salty abyss with no oxygen to sustain life for its aquatic inhabitants. This region that was once known for its lush marshlands fed by the Tigris River now carried the foul stench of death.
I know this article sounds bad. That's because things are bad when it comes to environmental issues in Iraq. People who cannot afford to move are being forced to relocate in order to have sufficient amounts of drinking water.