I think this post was born at the moment I realised I knew so little about Iraq and it environmental concerns. I get to write a lot on all sorts of countries through my work at Green Prophet – Yemen, Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, Dubai- but Iraq remains conspicuously absent from my portfolio of work. At Green Prophet, there have been only 11 articles written directly on Iraq’s environment since 2008 which is a shockingly small number considering we have thousands of articles posted.
In a bid to enlighten myself and others alike, I’ve put together a short profile on Iraq and its environmental issues. Let’s hope it’s the first of many more (positive hopefully) articles on the country.
Population: 28 million
The Iraqi government officially ratified the Kyoto Protocol after years of resistance under Saddam in January 2008. This effectively marked the first step in realising climate change and planning towards a more sustainable future.
- According to a recent report released by Swiss government in co-operation with over 100 Middle Eastern leaders, in 1991 it was estimated that 100% of the urban population and 50% of the rural population has access to safe clean water
Following years of war, including the war of 2003 which resulted in a major setback to water management, less than 25% of the population is connected to a water supply
Poor water infrastructure has resulted in incidents of cholera and diarrhoea
Destruction of Natural Habitats
The Marshlands of Iraq, which once constituted the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East, have been damaged significantly due to dam construction and drainage operations
According to the Blue Peace report, as a result of this environmental degradation “a large percentage of the indigenous population [in the marshlands] have been displaced and the rich biodiversity once unique to this region is disappearing.” (p13)
Concerns have been raised about forest degradation and deterioration of land quality due to harsh climate
The 2003 is also believed to have left close to four million people food insecure
If concerns about future water supplies are realised (rise in population and decline in supplies), experts believe that the agricultural sector will be worst affected
This will in turn mean that land will not be cultivated and so exacerbate food security
According to Blue Peace report, some of the expected impacts of climate change include decrease in soil moisture and increasing soil erosion, “all of which will ultimately affect agricultural production and food security.” (p113)
Due to serious drought which has plagued the country for three consecutive years from 2007-10, there have threaten desertification in southern Iraq
Experts have estimated that almost 90% of the land in Iraq could be subject to desertification over a period of time.
If water supplies dwindle and desertification takes hold than it is feared that a shortage in resources could lead to political conflict such as the recent tensions between Iraqis and Kurds over water.
: Image via The US Army on Flickr.
For more on Iraq and its environmental concerns see: