Southern Iraq's marshlands face severe drought

This has transformed the area into one of the driest regions, abandoned by many except for old boats and rusty anchorages.
A dead fish lies on the cracking earth of a dry marsh in Chibayish in Iraq's southern Dhi Qar province, July 5, 2023. (Photo: Asaad Niazi/AFP)
A dead fish lies on the cracking earth of a dry marsh in Chibayish in Iraq's southern Dhi Qar province, July 5, 2023. (Photo: Asaad Niazi/AFP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Once renowned as one of the most beautiful sites in Iraq and the world, the marshlands of southern Iraq are now suffering from severe drought and water shortages.

This has transformed the area into one of the driest regions, abandoned by many except for old boats and rusty anchorages.

The drought has heavily impacted these marshlands, which are classified as a World Heritage Site, forcing residents to migrate.

Abu Ahmed Abbas, a water buffalo breeder, told Kurdistan 24, “We ask the local authorities to provide us with our share of the water that we once had. We are facing a dire situation. The color of our water has changed and is no longer useful for drinking for animals and agriculture.”

Ali Ibrahim, a fisherman, echoed these concerns. “Our lives have become difficult because of the water shortage. Our waters have decreased a lot. There are no fish left. They used to come from Basra to buy fish here. Now even our animals have died,” he said.

Despite the Iraqi government's announcement of a plan to address the situation, experts warn of an impending environmental disaster due to the ongoing drought and shrinking water areas. This has forced many residents to leave their homes in the marshlands.

Jassim al-Asadi, the Managing Director of the Al-Chibayish office of Nature Iraq, expressed his concerns about the future. “I am worried about next summer if the Ministry of Water Resources does not have an urgent plan to manage the crisis. We are facing a very dangerous drought, and the ministry should form a committee of experts and residents of the region for this purpose. According to UNESCO, the residents of these areas must also participate in water management with the management and monitoring committee, and this is very important,” he said.

The drought crisis has destroyed large amounts of livestock and fish resources, posing a significant challenge for people who depended on these resources for their daily lives.

 

Additional reporting by Kurdistan24's correspondent Hoshyar Banani