Nearly 70 percent of Iraq 'affected by desertification': official

The official also explained that Najaf saw a five percent increase in desertification, with a third of land now affected.

Iraq was recently described by a World Bank report as being ‘highly exposed to both the physical and transition risks of climate change’ (Photo by ASAAD NIAZI/AFP via Getty Images)

Desertification has affected nearly 70 percent of Iraqi land, including around a third of Najaf province, an Iraqi official has said.

Haidar Falih Hassan, the Director of the Climate Change Department in the Environment Directorate of Najaf, warned that desertification had reached around 70 percent across Iraq, with Najaf itself seeing a five percent increase in desertification.

Desertification is a process in which land that was formerly fertile becomes desert and therefore uninhabitable. This process can be caused by both human activity as well as climate related changes.

Located in SE Iraq and fed by the Euphrates & Tigris rivers, the Mesopotamian Marshes are experiencing one of the worst cases of increased desertification due to the climate crisis; creating countless environmental migrants and internally displaced peoples

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— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) August 25, 2022

Water scarcity was a key problem in Iraq with farmers among the hardest hit, losing land to the desert. He warned that Najaf was "on the verge of dust storms" due to the process.

Iraq was recently described by a World Bank report as being "highly exposed to both the physical and transition risks of climate change", with the annual mean temperature expected to rise by 2.5 degrees by 2050. Iraq is also expected to experience a 20 percent reduction in water availability during the same time period.

There is growing pressure on the Iraqi government to urgently tackle this environmental emergency. The Green Iraq observatory threatened to go to the judicial council to challenge the budget law last month due to there being insufficient plans for spending on tackling environmental problems.

However, the government commented that it had allocated $7 billion to tackle climate related issues and had hosted a number of conferences aimed at addressing the issue.

Iraq also faces water issues related to the regulation of vital rivers into the country from neighbouring Turkey and Iran.

The New Arab’s correspondent in Iraq, Dana Gharib, said: "The issue [of water scarcity] deteriorates during the summer months as Iran and Turkey limit the flow of water to Iraq."

The dispute between Iraq, Turkey and Iran over the flow of water into the Euphrates and Tigris river is an ongoing one.

Gharib said: "Iraq’s diplomacy is very weak and cannot pressure Tehran and Ankara to abide by the international treaties about sharing join rivers."

It has previously threatened to take Iran to the International Court of Justice over the issue.

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