Iraq’s Lake Hamrin, once a huge reservoir northeast of Baghdad, the only source of water for irrigation in Diyala province, has almost dried up, a senior official said on Friday.
Incessant low rainfall and a sharp reduction in the flow of water down the Sirwan River from neighboring Iran have turned the lake into a dust bowl, the official told AFP.
“The water level has come down drastically – the reserves currently stand at 130 million cubic meters against the usual two billion cubic meters,” said Aun Dhiyab, a senior advisor to the Ministry of Water.
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Dhiab said a number of factors were to blame, including prolonged drought and Iranian dam construction and upstream diversion projects.
Dhiab said that this is not the first time that the water level has dropped so low. “In 2009, the lake dried up completely. There was only one stream. ,
The impact on the surrounding agricultural land should not be underestimated, he added.
“There are no other sources of water in the province – the volume coming into Lake Hamrin is the amount used in the province.”
He said the government has asked Iran to increase the flow of water across the border. Otherwise all that could be done was to pray for more rain next year.
The problem is not only in Diyala province. The World Bank predicts that without major changes, Iraq will lose 20 percent of its water resources by 2050.
The country is classified as one of the five most vulnerable to climate change impacts and desertification. Water scarcity has reduced the quota for rice and wheat farmers this year.
Iraq’s upstream neighbors Iran, Turkey and Syria experience similar shortages, meaning its appeals for help usually go unheeded.
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