Iraq’s new war is a fight for water
Dam projects by neighbouring states are drastically reducing the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates and helping to turn a once-fertile plain into desert. Phil Sands and Nizar Latif report as an environmental crisis deepens
As bombs continue to tear apart its towns and villages, Iraq is now in the grip of an environmental crisis that experts and officials warn may do what decades of war have not been able to — destroy the country. The new war on Iraq, says one member of the country’s parliament, "is a war of water".
The Tigris and Euphrates, two of the world’s great water courses, fed life to the historic lands of Mesopotamia, "the land between two rivers". The previously lush plains south of Baghdad are widely held to be the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of some of humanity’s greatest achievements and earliest empires.
Today, however, those same rivers are increasingly starved of water. The floodplains on either side of the Euphrates and Tigris, Iraq’s old fertile agricultural heartlands, are parched. In northern Iraq, underground supplies of water have been so depleted they may never recover.