“This year, the drought started around March. And until today, in May, there is nothing. Each day, the water goes down. This is scary, it is seriously dangerous. First of all, our water buffaloes are now getting ill,” water buffalo herder Raad Hamid said about the drought in Iraq’s southern marshes.
Mesopotamia’s marshlands are fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, supporting an entire ecosystem in the region. Environmental organization Nature Iraq said the marshes’ water levels are lower this year than last year, and the amount of salt and pollution in the water has risen.
“In the marshes, [water] salinity has started to rise. This increase means that the animals are not drinking the water, and so the water buffalo herders started to move from the centre of the marshes to the Euphrates,” Ayad Al-Asadi from Nature Iraq said. And those who can’t move, sell their animals.
Water buffalo herders fear what’s to come in the summer months ahead. “People are shattered. You see that when people sit down and talk, they are really worried, and the problems they have do not have a solution. People are confused. Where should they go, what should they do?” Hamid said.
“This whole environment lives through this water. Animals live through the water,” water buffalo herder Jassim Hamid said, adding that many animals and people depend on the water. “So if the water dries up and is gone, everybody loses.”
Christophe Chauveau from the French Agronomists and Veterinarians Without Borders (AVSF) organization told news agency Reuters that water pollution, rising temperatures and decreasing water levels affect water buffaloes’ natural resistance, making them highly susceptible to diseases.
Iraq has been trapped in a cycle of recurring water crises because of climate change, pollution, and upstream damming. According to the United Nations, Iraq’s 2020-2021 rainfall season was the second driest in 40 years.
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