Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Perspective: Thirsty in the land of two rivers

Two of the largest rivers of the Middle East run through Iraq, so why are Iraqis desperate for water?

The vast majority of Iraqis live by the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers or one of their many tributaries. The two rivers, which defined the ancient land of Mesopotamia (from the Greek "between the rivers"), join near Basra in the south to form the Shatt al-Arab river basin. Iraq is also gifted with high-quality groundwater resources; about a fifth of the territory is farmland.

"The water we have in Iraq is more than enough for our living needs," said chief engineer Adil Mahmood of the Irrigation Authority in Baghdad. "In fact we can export water to neighboring countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan - who manage shortages in water resources with good planning."

But now Iraqi farmers struggle to get water to their crops. There is severe lack of electricity to run pumps and fuel to run generators.

"The water is there and the rivers have not dried up, but the problem lies in how to get it to our dying plantations," said Jabbar Ahmed, a farmer from Latifiya south of Baghdad. "It is a shame that we, our animals and our plants are thirsty in a country that has the two great rivers."

Read the rest at Asia Times