Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Iraqis struggle with sandstorms, drought


Below-average rainfall and insufficient water in the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have left Iraq bone dry for a second straight year, wrecking swaths of farm land, threatening drinking water supplies and intensifying fierce sandstorms that have coated the country in brown dust.

The drought has dealt a harsh blow to hopes that reductions in sectarian violence over the last year would fuel an economic recovery. Instead, the government’s budget suffered a double-hit: Lower than expected oil prices have crimped revenues and the scarcity of water will force Iraq to spend money to import most of the crops, especially wheat and rice, to meet domestic demand.

“Look at this land. There is no water,” Ashur Mohamed Ahmood said.

“Without water there are no plants. This is the plant,” he says, uprooting a weed and throwing it back to the ground.

Historically, Iraq has been one of the more fertile nations in the region, thanks to the Tigris and Euphrates, which flow southeasterly through the entire nation. But for a second year, cropland in the north and west is parched and farmers in south and central Iraq are suffering from low water flows in both rivers — a phenomenon caused in part by dams in Turkey and Syria.

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