Southern Iraq on the verge of bloody conflicts due to water shortage

Southern Iraq on the verge of bloody conflicts due to water shortage

Shafaq News / In southern Iraq, the situation is deteriorating owing to severe water shortages, which could lead to bloodshed between the region’s tribes for a drop of water to cultivate their crops, which are their major source of income.

According to provincial authorities, Dhi Qar, one of Iraq's southern governorates, has witnessed historic water shortages, warning of armed clashes between tribes in pursuit of water.

"This season will be very harsh on agriculture in the governorate," Dhi Qar agriculture director Saleh Hadi told Shafaq News agency, "This is due to several reasons, including the lack of rainfall which we rely on in irrigation, the lack of regularity in water releases from neighboring countries, and the lack of credibility of the ministries supporting this at all."

"The Ministry of Water Resources guaranteed us previously that there would be adequate water for the current season, but then surprised us with an odd explanation: the water safe is only for potable water," Hadi explained.

He referred to a plan for the current agricultural season that exceeded 450,000 dunums but was rejected, "A plan was prepared by the central government based on 50% of last season's plan, so the agricultural plan for the governorate became 187,000 dunums. A number that we do not know exactly how to deal with as there are thousands of dunums left without agricultural investment."

"We expect tribal wars to erupt at any time for water, especially in the governorate's eastern part, which is suffering from a severe drought," Hadi continued.

"The governorate has nothing but God's mercy to save the farmers who started planting crops. We fear that the joy of last season will not be repeated by self-sufficiency as the current season may not fill the need for four months of flour, so we will have to buy it in the future," he said.

Hussein al-Khayoun, the prince of the Abbouda tribe in Iraq and around the world, sent an urgent message to Prime Minister, Muqtada al-Sadr, minister of Water Resources, and religious authorities, through his Facebook page, claiming that there is a policy of starvation being practiced against the people of the South, implemented by cutting off water to end agriculture.

"Who is responsible for such decisions and policies? And are there any advisors who are aware that the prices of flour, feed, and food have drastically risen and yet cut off water and diverted it to the Shatt al-Arab and hence to the sea, depriving large areas of agricultural and potable water?" he wondered.

The Dhi Qar Resources Directorate declined to respond to al-Khayoun, stressing that the governorate is full of over-rationers.

"The water treasury available in the ministry's reservoirs is enough for potable water and 50% for the agricultural plan," Said Ghazwan al-Sahlani, director of water resources, told Shafaq News agency, "The ministry is currently working to the fullest extent possible until additional waves arrive to strengthen the country's water treasury."

"Water rationing abuses abound in the governorate due to a lack of cooperation between the governorate's directors of administrative units and the security services," al-Sahlani said, “The governorate's agricultural plan is 50%, but it is actually the same area as the land planted last year, which is problematic and might lead to the termination of potable water.”

"Some farmers have abused the system by breaking the water gates on rivers even though they were welded by large iron machinery," he said, adding that his administration has initiated more than 700 lawsuits in the past years, while more than 800 overruns have now been discovered in the governorate in the past period, all of which require lawsuits.

"The water condition in the district is horrible; this is the region's worst agricultural season since its creation," al-Tar district’s head Abd Dheddan al-Jabri stated.

"The district is experiencing yearly (winter-summer) cultivation, and the water problem is widespread, not just in al-Tar," al-Jabri said. "The pumps can no longer subside themselves due to the unprecedented reduction in water in the Euphrates River."

"The governorate's share of the Euphrates River has reached 70% in the al-Batha district, which is the lowest level, from 120% previously," he stated, "Only God can save us from the current situation. Al-Tar district was farming more than 10,000 dunums, whereas we are now growing less than 1,000 dunums."

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