After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands


Black buffaloes wade via the waters of Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes, leisurely chewing on reeds. After years of drought, winter rains have introduced some respite to herders and livestock within the well-known wetlands.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the marshes had been parched and dusty final summer time by drought within the climate-stressed nation and by decreased movement from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers resulting from dams constructed upstream in Turkey and Iran.

Winter brings seasonal rains, providing reduction in marshes like these of Huwaizah — which straddles the border with Iran — and Chibayish, situated in close by Dhi Qar province.

Among the reeds of Chibayish, buffalo farmer Rahim Daoud now makes use of a keep on with punt his boat throughout an expanse of water.

“This summer, it was dirt here; there was no water,” stated the 58-year-old. “With the rain that has fallen, the water level has risen.”

Last summer time, AFP photographers travelled to the Huwaizah and Chibayish marshes to doc the disappearance of enormous parts of the wetlands, observing huge expanses of dry and cracked soil dotted with yellowed shrubs.

In October, an official within the impoverished rural province of Dhi Qar advised AFP that within the earlier six months, 1,200 households had left the marshes and different agricultural areas of southern Iraq and greater than 2,000 buffaloes had died.

– Scorching summers –

Iraq has confronted three consecutive years of extreme drought and scorching warmth, with temperatures commonly exceeding 50 levels Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) through the summer time of 2022.

“There is a gradual improvement,” Hussein al-Kenani stated after the current rains.

He heads the governmental centre in command of defending the wetlands and stated rainwater collected in canals and rivers has been redirected to the marshes.

“The water level in Chibayish’s swamps has increased by more than 50 centimetres (20 inches) compared with December and by more than 30 centimetres for the Huwaizah swamps,” Kenani stated.

In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization deplored the “unprecedented low water levels” within the marshes, highlighting “the disastrous impact” for greater than 6,000 households, whose buffaloes and livelihoods had been being misplaced.

The reduction of rainfall early this month was welcomed by the UN company, which famous in an announcement that within the Chibayish area “salinity levels decreased” to the purpose that individuals and animals might once more drink the water.

“This has had a great positive impact, especially on buffalo herders,” it stated.