Tigris River in Iraq is drying up
Tigris River in Iraq is drying up

Baghdad: The river is credited with helping build civilization by supplying water to the Garden of Eden in the Bible.

But the Tigris is dying right now. When combined with its twin river, the Euphrates, it earned Mesopotamia the distinction of being the cradle of civilization thousands of years ago. However, human activity and climate change have suppressed its once powerful flow through Iraq.

Despite being an oil-rich nation, Iraq is still poor due to decades of conflict, as well as desertification and drought.

According to the United Nations, it is one of the five countries most affected by climate change, and has been badly hit by a string of natural disasters.

Temperatures rise above 35 °C from April onwards, and frequent, intense sand storms turn the skies orange and cover the entire country in a thin layer of dust.

Near the upper limit of human tolerance, the mercury rises to 50 °C during oppressive summers, and millions of people lose access to air conditioning due to repeated power outages.

The dams, most of which are upstream in Turkey, and dwindling rains have closed the Tigris, the lifeline connecting the magnificent cities of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.

To capture the ecological devastation that is forcing people to abandon their traditional lifestyles, an AFP video journalist traveled a 1,500km course of the river through Iraq, from the rugged Kurdish gulf in the south until.

The Tigris begins its journey through Iraq in the mountains of independent Kurdistan, close to the borders of Syria and Turkey, where local people raise sheep and grow potatoes.

In the town of Faish Khabur, 41-year-old farmer Peibo Hassan Dolmasa wore a dusty coat and declared, "Our lives depend on the Tigris." Our agriculture and all our work depends on it. Unlike the last two or three years, "there is less water every day," he claimed. "Previously, the water was flowing in torrential downpours."

The Turkish government, where the Tigris River originates, is accused by the Iraqi government and Kurdish farmers of reducing the flow of water by holding water in Iraq's dams.

According to official figures from Iraq, the level of the Tigris River entering Iraq has decreased by only 35% of its century-long average. Ankara is often asked by Baghdad to release more water.

Tweeting in July that "water in Iraq is largely wasted," Turkey's ambassador to Iraq Ali Riza Guni urged Iraq to "use available water more efficiently."

Experts believe they may have a point. Since the Sumerian era, Iraqi farmers have watered their fields instead of irrigating, causing significant water loss.

The puddles of stagnant water lie on the dry bed of the Diyala River, a tributary that joins the Tigris near the capital Baghdad in the Central Plains.

The water stream needed for the agriculture of the region has dried up due to the drought. Iraq's cultivated land is to be halved this year, which means no crops will be grown in the severely damaged Diyala province.

Abu Mehdi, 42, dressed in a white jellaba robe, said: "We will be forced to stop farming and sell our animals." He stressed that "we were displaced by the war waged in the 1980s against Iran" and that "we are now going to be displaced by water." We cannot even survive in these places without water. In an effort to get water, the farmer dug a 30 meter well with borrowed money. Abu Mehdi said, "We sold everything, but it was a failure.

The World Bank warned last year that a significant part of Iraq was likely to experience a similar situation.

It states that by 2050 a 1% increase in temperature and a 10% decrease in rainfall will result in a 20% reduction in the amount of fresh water that is readily available.

"Under these circumstances, about a third of the irrigated land in Iraq would be without water."

According to the United Nations and several non-governmental organizations, water scarcity is already one of the "main drivers of rural to urban migration" in Iraq and has implications for farming and food security.

Additionally, the International Organization for Migration reported last month that in the first three months of this year, "climate factors" had forced more than 3,300 families from their homes in Iraq's central and southern regions.

The IOM said that "climate migration is already a reality in Iraq."

In Baghdad this summer, the level of the Tigris River dropped so low that volleyball games were played in the middle of the river, with players submerged in water barely waist-deep.

Due to a decrease in river flow, sand and clay that once washed downstream has settled to form sand banks, which the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources attributes to siltation.

The work of dredging the silt by the Baghdad authorities has slowed recently because of a lack of funding.

A large portion of Iraq's water infrastructure has been destroyed by years of war, leaving many cities, factories, farms, and even hospitals with no choice but to dump their waste directly into the river.

The Tigris River is becoming smaller due to Greater Baghdad's pollution, which is creating a toxic soup that endangers both human and marine life. The political, security, and economic crises facing Iraqi governments have not given environmental policies a high priority.

Activist Hajjer Hadi of the Green Climate group claimed that despite the fact that "every Iraqi feels climate change through rising temperatures, lower rainfall, falling water levels, and dust storms," overall environmental awareness is still low in the country. Are these palm trees visible? The brown remains of what was once a lush palm grove were pointed out by 65-year-old farmer Molla Al-Rached as being thirsty.

They require water. He asked sourly, "Should I try to drench them in a glass of water?" Or using a bottle? A beige keffiyeh scarf was wrapped around the farmer's head as he declared, "There is no fresh water, there is no more life." He resides in Ras Al-Bisha, close to the borders with Iran and Kuwait, where the Shatt Al-Arab, the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, empties into the Gulf.

Many of the depleted waterways in Basra, once known as the Venice of the Middle East, are choked with trash.

Since Saddam Hussein drained the Mesopotamian Marshes in the 1980s to punish its populace, a large portion of the once-famous wetland that was once home to the "Marsh Arabs" and their distinct culture has been turned into desert.

However, the Shatt Al-Arab is also under threat from salt water from the Gulf, which is moving ever-further upstream as the river's flow decreases.

The UN and local farmers claim that increasing salinity is already affecting farm yields, a trend that is expected to get worse as sea levels rise due to global warming.

Al-Rached claimed that because wildlife is encroaching into populated areas in search of water, he must purchase water from tankers for his livestock.

He claimed, "My government doesn't give me water." "I need water to survive. Similar to my ancestors, I want to plant.

As the sun sets over the Shatt Al-Arab, fisherman Naim Haddad steers his boat home while standing barefoot in it like a Venetian gondolier.

The 40-year-old was holding up the day's catch and declared, "Fishing is what we have dedicated our lives to, from father to son." The father of eight is proud that, in a nation where grilled carp is the national dish, he receives "no government salary, no allowances."

Salination, however, is having an adverse effect because it drives out the most valuable freshwater species, which are then replaced by ocean fish. We have salt water in the summer, Haddad said. The seawater rises and flows into this area.

In the river north of Basra, salt concentrations last month reached 6,800 parts per million, nearly seven times that of fresh water, according to local authorities.

Haddad's small boat is insufficient for the rougher Gulf waters, where he would also run the risk of encounters with the Iranian and Kuwaiti coast guards, so he is unable to switch to sea fishing. As a result, the fisherman is dependent on Iraq's disappearing rivers, and his fate is intertwined with theirs. He declared, "The fishing goes if the water goes. And so does our way of life.

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