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Water crisis salts the earth in Iraq's long-neglected south
by Sinan Salaheddin
The Associated Press Translate This Article
2 August 2018
On 2 August 2018 The Associated Press reported:
Qassim Sabaan Ali has spent the past 15 years tending to orchards in southern Iraq, only to see them wither or die as saltwater has seeped into the once-lush soil. The southern city of Basra was once known as the 'Venice of the East' because of its freshwater canals, and Iraq itself is still known as the 'Land Between the Two Rivers' -- the Tigris and the Euphrates -- which have nourished civilizations since antiquity.
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But upstream dams in Turkey, Syria, and Iran have shrunk the rivers and their tributaries, seasonal rainfall has dropped and infrastructure has fallen into disrepair. The result is an acute lack of freshwater that has allowed a salty tide from the nearby Persian Gulf to advance north from the Shatt al-Arab waterway -- the confluence of the Tigris and the Euphrates that Basra residents depend on -- and seep into once-lush farmland.
Ali's fig, apple, and palm trees are dying off, and the water from the taps is so salty and polluted it cannot even be used for cooking or washing. ...
The water woes, along with a lingering electricity crisis in the oil-rich region, contributed to last month's violent demonstrations in Basra and other southern provinces, in which protesters attacked and burned government and political party offices, prompting security forces to open fire.
Several protesters were killed or wounded, while others were arrested. ...
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