Over half of Iraq land at risk of desertification, says ministry

Over half of Iraq land at risk of desertification, says ministry
2 min read
An Iraqi agriculture ministry official said around 15 percent of land, or around 10,400 square miles, has been desertified, while 55 percent is "threatened" with this fate.

Iraq is facing an unprecedented drought crisis [MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty-file photo]

More than half of Iraq's land is at risk of desertification, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

Iraq is facing an unprecedented drought crisis – hit by climate change and moves by Iran and Turkey that have reduced the flow of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers into the country.

This has slashed the amount of available farmland in half, stopping agriculture in some provinces entirely, per seasonal plans issued according to water availability, The New Arab's Arabic sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported.

"The decrease in rain during the 2021 winter season and the drop in the amount of water released from upstream countries has led to reductions in the agricultural plan," said Rawya Mazal, director-general of the agriculture ministry's forestry and combatting desertification department.

"This led to the desertification of lands in [Iraq] due to their lack of productivity," she explained to the official Iraqi News Agency on Friday.

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Mazal said around 15 percent of land, or around 10,400 square miles, has been desertified, while 55 percent is "threatened" with this fate.

She explained that desertification is an issue that goes beyond just her ministry, saying "signs of interest in this problem are beginning to appear on the horizon".

"We hope for the best from the Food Security Law in providing the necessary allocations to address this issue," Mazal said.

Wasit province agricultural association member Bader Al-Khuzai said desertification would only be stopped with significant action.

"Overcoming desertification requires bold steps from the government – that is, seeking to obtain [Iraq's] share of water from the neighbouring countries of Iran and Turkey by entering into serious negotiations with them" he told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

He said that if the water is available, "returning agricultural plans to what they were in the past is enough to control" the issue of desertification.

However, Al-Khuzai also said that "the corruption which has eroded state institutions also has significant impacts on the [issue of desertification], by reducing financial allocations to ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture".

Iraq is among the most at-risk nations from climate change, with the World Bank in November saying the country's water resources would decrease by 20 percent by 2050.