Iraq is facing today the most severe drought since 1930. This water crisis is not only a result of climate change; it is also caused by the mismanagement of resources by the Iraqi government, two decades of war in the region, and the construction of controversial dams located upstream in Turkey.
The history of the Mesopotamian rivers and their presence in our own cultural history may be one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world, spanning some, 10,000 years of world heritage. In the 4th millennium BCE, the first literate societies emerged in Southern Mesopotamia, often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization. What was once considered to be the Garden of Eden is now in danger of disappearing.
The Euphrates and Tigris rivers occupy a central place in the daily life, ecology, and history of millions of people living around them.
In 2016, the Iraqi marshes were placed on the UNESCO's list of world heritage sites. To this day the flooded surface of the marshes has never been smaller. Before 1990, it reached up to 8000 square miles. In 2014, 2,500 square miles of marshes were still flooded. Today it's barely 1000 square miles.
The Euphrates is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of the Middle East flowing over 1,700 miles from eastern Turkey through Syria and Iraq.
In 2025 the Tigris-Euphrates river basin could be under eight times more stress than in 2011. By 2040, these two mighty rivers may not even reach the Persian Gulf. As these rivers dry out, journalists and analysts have predicted that wars on waters will soon erupt in the region.
For Iraq, the country’s long-term economic viability depends on water to reduce agricultural imports and revive its industries. It also needs water for its people; according to the World Bank, there is a 15% lack of access to an improved water source.
More than anything, Iraq needs peace. Yet depleting water sources could potentially tip the country into another war.