Iraq is a rainless country that depends for its existence on two rivers flowing down from Turkish mountains. The Turks have built several large dams and their effect is beginning tobe felt on Iraq. The Euphrates river carries currently 230 cubic metres per second, down from the 2000 level of 950 cubic metres per second. It is still a vast amount of water, but the Iraqis are not used to saving water, so they cant manage with this amount. At their traditional water use, the available flow means that more than half of the irrigated area will stay dry this summer.
The negative impact on farming is already being felt in some provinces, including Najaf in the south that has banned its farmers from planting rice because it requires heavy irrigation. The marshes of Nasiriyah farther south are becoming saline. The Iraqis themselves are disorganized and barely aware of what is happening to them. Turkey is indifferent. In twenty years more, Iraq will become a desert country dependant on oil, like Saudi Arabia. Pic and footnote from NASA site (The Engineer says Thanks America):
The top image is a false-color composite made from data collected by the Multi-Spectral Scanner (MSS) aboard Landsat from 1973-76. Four Landsat scenes were stitched together to make an image of the whole region. In this scene, dense marsh vegetation (mainly phragmites, or marsh grass) appears as dark red patches. The elongated red patches along the banks of the Shatt-al-Arab River are Date Palm groves. The Shatt-al-Arab begins where the Tigris and Euphrates meet and carries their waters southeastward into the Persian Gulf.The above refers to the situation in the year 2,000. I have no access to current Landsat pics, but I presume that by now the Marsh Arabs have returned to their original status of Desert Arabs.
The bottom image is a false-color composite of data from the Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), acquired on March 26 and May 4, 2000. In this scene, most of the Central Marshes appear as olive to greyish-brown patches indicating low vegetation cover on moist to dry ground. The very light to grey patches are areas of exposed ground with no vegetation, which may actually be salt flats where before there were lakes. The Al Hawizeh Marsh (straddling the Iran-Iraq border just east of the Tigris River) appears to be all that remains of the region's natural wetlands, and it has been reduced in size by about half.
Today, river flow into the Mesopotamian marshlands has been cut by 20-50 percent, and the spring floods that sustained the marshlands have been eliminated. The end result is what was once a lush wetland environment roughly the size of the state of New Jersey has been reduced by about 85 percent in area to roughly the size of the small island nation of the Bahamas. What was once a vast, interconnected mosaic of densely-vegetated marshlands and lakes, teeming with life, is now mostly lifeless desert and salt-encrusted lakebeds and riverbeds.
Even for the 1,270 square km (490 square miles) of marshlands that still remain, quality of life has been adversely impacted by a decline in water quality. Human irrigation practices render the Tigris and Euphrates waters saltier than they originally were. All of these negative trends point to the inevitable demise of the Mesopotamian ecosystem ... dating back to ancient Sumeria about 5,000 years ago.