Adherents of Islam consider suicide to be one of the greatest of all spiritual transgressions, so when an Iraqi farmer recently took his own life because he could no longer maintain his crops amid chronic water shortages, it could not have been an easy decision.
Even worse, 54 year-old Salman Habib left behind seven children and four other dependents, according to AFP.
Officials from Al-Islah in Dhi Qar province say that one thousand families have abandoned their land in the last two years as a result of escalating water shortages. The mayor, Ali Hussein Raddad, told AFP that Habib suffered severe psychological problems resulting from the economic struggles, which eventually led him to take his own life.
Water shortages in the region can be traced to reduced flow along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as a result of dams and other upstream developments (in Turkey and Syria) and desertification.
By 2009, the desert had already usurped 39 percent of the country’s surface and an additional 54 percent faces a similar threat, the environmental ministry reports. That amounts to 93 percent of the country overtaken by desert if nothing is done to curtail it.
Each year, Iraq loses approximately 96 square miles of arable land to environmental degradation of some kind. This is a travesty given that the agricultural sector in the last few decades has been the second largest source of jobs and the second most important contributor to the country’s gross domestic product – after fossil fuels.
The lead image depicts fresh produce being sold at a Baghdad market in 1999. More than a decade later, images like this will be harder to find and in another decade still, we have to wonder if they will be found at all.
Image credit: Iraq food market in 1999, Shutterstock