Iraq's agriculture threatened by desertification, land degradation, climate change

The alarming statistics reveal that 71 percent of arable land in Iraq has already succumbed to desertification, while an additional 100,000 dunams of land become infertile annually due to this phenomenon.
The irrigation channel in the district of Dawwayeh is dry due to low water levels as a result of back to back drought and severe cuts by the Iraqi government. (Photo: AP)
The irrigation channel in the district of Dawwayeh is dry due to low water levels as a result of back to back drought and severe cuts by the Iraqi government. (Photo: AP)

ERBIL (Kurdistan24) - Iraq faces a critical environmental crisis as desertification and land degradation continue to threaten agricultural viability, with only 14 million dunams of land remaining suitable for farming, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Environment.

The alarming statistics reveal that 71 percent of arable land in Iraq has already succumbed to desertification, while an additional 100,000 dunams of land become infertile annually due to this phenomenon.

Desertification not only jeopardizes Iraq's agricultural productivity but also poses a significant threat to the environment and climate. The resultant dust storms not only degrade air quality but also endanger the health of Iraqis.

Iraq ranks among the top five countries most affected by climate change, with projections indicating a substantial increase in average temperatures by 2050. Additionally, UNESCO identifies Iraq as the 12th most impacted country by groundwater depletion, forecasting a loss of 20 percent of its groundwater by 2050.

The dire situation is further compounded by erosion, which threatens 61 percent of agricultural land, leading to a 70 percent reduction in Iraq's agricultural output, according to the al-Baider Center for Studies and Planning, a non-governmental and non-profit organization located in Baghdad.

These environmental challenges have far-reaching consequences, including the proliferation of dust storms, particularly during the summer months, attributed to decreased rainfall and soil desertification.

A study conducted by Yale University, Columbia University, and the World Economic Forum underscores the severity of the issue, revealing that Iraqi dust carries 37 toxic substances and over 147 dangerous bacteria and fungi.

Despite the urgency of the situation, Iraq lags behind in preparedness and governmental planning to combat climate change challenges, ranking poorly in global assessments of climate resilience and mitigation efforts.