Global Greenpeace organization has identified climate change or global warming phenomena as a real global problem, and it is “an imbalance in the usual climatic conditions, such as the heat and wind and rain patterns that characterize every region on Earth.” According to the organization, the pace and magnitude of global climate change can have dramatic effects on natural biological systems in the long run.
In the same context, climate experts say 13% of these changes are natural, while the human are responsible for 87% of the causes that led to the occurrence of the phenomenon of global warming.
Hence, we shed light on its serious effects and its reflections on the Arab countries in general and Iraq in particular noting that our Arab region is not immune to the negative effects, but is at the heart of the major climatic problem facing the world and its consequences are desertification and water shortage. While we find the desertification rate in irrigated land in Iraq is 71%, while in Turkey, Lebanon and Syria 13%, 7% and 17%, respectively.
Desertification is a serious environmental phenomenon that threatens the lives of economic and living communities, where fertile agricultural lands turn into barren ones with many negative consequences on human life and the economy of the country.
Desertification is the destructive process or damage of the earth’s vital energy, which can eventually lead to desert-like conditions, a manifestation of the widespread degradation of ecosystems, which reduces the earth’s vital energy of plant and animal production and thus affects the maintenance of human existence.
Climate change affects agricultural areas in Iraq by increasing desertification, weakening agricultural development and eradicating livestock, which has led to the degradation and lack of natural vegetation, which has negatively affected the human and food security of the country.
Factors for the emergence of desertification in Iraq:
1. 90% of the area of Iraq is located within the dry and semi-dry climatic zone, where the hot and dry desert climate is located within the limits of the sedimentary plain and the Western desert plateau. This climate represents about 70% of the total area of Iraq.
2. High summer temperatures which sometimes reach more than 50 ° C.
3. The low rainfall rate, varying in size between 5-15 cm, is affected by the high evaporation rate, which is lower in most regions of Iraq. The rainfall rate in the south is 40 days and in the north 70 days with a lack of humidity which is very important in soil biological cycle and growth of Herbs.
4. The prevailing winds in Iraq are the dry and hot Northwest winds, spreading local dust, and dry, long dry summers. This factor plays an important role in the occurrence of desertification in Iraq.
The member of the Committee on Agriculture, Ali al-Badiri, said that global warming is threatening Iraq, pointing out that there are many obstacles that prevent taking precautionary measures to reduce this phenomenon, including: quotas and tribal in Iraqi society as the quota stands in the face of effective projects that promote the country including agriculture while the tribal control of agricultural land that prevents the extension of green belt surrounding areas of Iraq to prevent the desertification and erosion of the land under the pretext of land ownership and he added “The Ministry of Agriculture and its institutions are suffering from a financial crisis and have not been able to carry out projects and conferences in order to confront global warming and other deadly factors of the Earth. ”
Al-Badiri added “Agriculture in Iraq is almost finished because high temperatures, desertification, drought and other factors have killed all the spirit of the earth and we were unable to take the precautionary measures to face all these phenomenon as well as the oil companies have an effect on the environment and the increase of temperature this is what we see every year, “stressing that” most officials have export and import companies and therefore strive to thwart agriculture and stop it altogether. ”
Economists believe that Iraq faces the biggest environmental problem in its history represented by the severe desertification, which jeopardizes its food security, in which many natural and human factors are combined in making it , and increase its seriousness on the environmental, economic, social and cultural aspects, losing a lot of productive land, and move sand dunes and blow of severe sand and dust storms resulting an increase of air pollution.
The establishment of dams and reservoirs on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, Turkey and Syria contributed to the increase in the quantity and quality of salts. The coming of salty water of the Arabian Gulf to the Shatt al-Arab due to the lack of water and the discharge of the water of factories and military manufacturing projects to the rivers without chemical treatment due to the poor control and neglect, if it exists and the lack of treatment of sewers of the cities that flow to the rivers.
the decline of Forests, which cover 1.8 percent of the total area, according to the FAO, occupy 789,000 hectares and plating 10,000 hectares of forest. It covers mountainous areas in the north and north-east (Kurdistan). And covered 1.851 million hectares in 1970, but fell to 1.5 million hectares in 1978, the first fell to 1.1% and the area removed annually 12 km² and the annual rate of removal 0.2% in the period 1990-2005,
The increase in desertification due to the exposure of forest to the wide cuttings that have reached single forests of oak trees in more remote lands, pastoral pressure, arson and military operations. Which increased water erosion and the disappearance of the fertile layer of soil, and negatively impacted the storage capacity of dams and irrigation efficiency and increase costs.
As a result of desertification, the number of palm trees has decreased from about 30 million palm trees to 9.5 million due to wars, especially the Iraqi-Iranian war, water shortage, salinity, agricultural diseases and neglect.
The result is the deterioration of the pastoral value of the pastures, which account for 70-75% of the country’s area due to pastoral pressure, the cutting and uprooting of fodder plants for fuel purposes, the cultivation of pastures with rainfall of less than 200 mm per year and the uncontrolled distribution of water which led to the concentration of livestock in areas where water is available that has negative impacts on vegetation.
In recent decades, Iraq has witnessed drought in most of its regions. Rainfall has fallen by 30% from the average. Water levels in major rivers have fallen by more than 50%, resulting the decline by 70% rain-fed crop production and losses in wheat and barley production By 37 and 63% in the central and southern regions, respectively.
The problem is more complicated if we know that the desert climate prevails in 70% of the land, especially in the sedimentary plain and the western plateau where the annual rainfall ranges between 50-200 mm.
Sand dunes are among the most dangerous consequences of desertification because of their negative impacts on vital aspects of life. Sand and dusty storms are a harmful feature. The main manifestation is the spread of sand dunes, mostly in the central and southern regions, where the wind moves it. Storms blows, which pollute the environment and harm human health and agricultural production, destroy the physiological processes of plants, especially pollination and flowering.
As for the distribution of sand dunes at the governorate level, Babylon has dunes adjacent to the general estuary, Salah al-Din north and south of Baiji, Tikrit-Kirkuk, and in Qadisiya there are small movable dune according to the wind speed and in the Badir-Nefer-Afak region and in Diyala the sand dunes are relatively high and in Muqdadiya the dunes are linear, crescent and the fan and in the Anbar , the soil is swept by the winds for the lack of vegetation and drought and sand dunes move throughout the Western Sahara and affect the highway to Jordan and Syria. In Dhi Qar there are moving sand in the area between the general estuary and the borders of Diwaniyah and Al-Bidair area.
In Basra, the southern Badia is sandy land where wells are drilled. In Wasit, there are sand in Nu’maniyah with an area of 91 km², Mufqiya – Sheikh 13 km², in Nineveh, the Company 4 km, Burit 3 km and Nasiriyah, where the dunes crawl to these areas and reach to the road leading to the district of Hadher and airport with 45 km long. In Karbala, the dunes are within a 32-degree latitude from the north-west and south-west sides. In Muthanna, the area of dunes is 65000 dunums in the Warka area, 25,000 dunums in Al-Najmi area and 12,000 dunums in the Basiya area. There are fixed dunes of 1000 dunums in the crescent area.
As desertification is a complex, interconnected and environmental, economic and social problem; in which a number of natural and human factors are overlapping to make it, including salinization, which is the main factor of desertification, which has reached a very serious level. In fact, the spread of salts in Mesopotamia, Where it was found after its cultivation for successive generations that the historical sources indicate that the history of irrigation of agricultural land in this plain, due to more than six thousand years.
Hence, the view that the transfer of centers of ancient civilizations from the south to the center and the north was caused by the spread of salts in the soil and the decline in production.
It is clear that the spread of salts is due to the geomorphological, hydrological and climatic factors, water and soil properties and the human factor of not using appropriate irrigation methods. This means the absence of the aquatic techniques and the scientific methods used in agriculture, despite the great talk for many years of interest in agriculture.
The problem of salinity has resulted from many factors, some of them related to the natural environment and the other to human work. On the whole , the problem of salinity resulted from many factors , some of them related to the natural environment and the other to man’s work and these factors are related to the degree of its effect on the spread of salinity, which vary from one place to another, increasing from north to south and from high to low. Natural factors have a prominent role and the climate is on the forefront as the increase in the amount of solar radiation, high temperature, low clouds, relative humidity and the predominance of the northern and northwestern winds lead to the increase of evaporation intensity and thus increases salt content.
This coincides with excessive irrigation, especially since the water used in turn contains different percentages of salts vary in quantity from one place to another and from season to season. The nature of the soil has a clear effect on the emergence of the problem and exacerbated with the accompanying of the adoption of wrong farming systems.
Iraq’s soil contains high salt content, with 61% of agricultural land under threat of salinity, with an average of 8%. This means that all soils will be salted if the appropriate drainage system is not used. When the water level rises in the flood season or irrigation, salts rise to the top of the soil, so drainage becomes very important.
Contributing to salinity is the rise of Iraq’s areas above sea level, which makes it difficult to discharge water, high groundwater and the accumulation of salts in the soil. Therefore, the plains, which are famous for their fertility, have become salty lands, and productivity in large lands has fallen to almost zero. It is estimated that about 100,000 dunums (250,000 square meters) are salted annually.
Agricultural land lost annually due to salinization, erosion and soil degradation is large compared to the total area of cultivated land. Where the area of agricultural land in Iraq amounted 42 million acres, but available for agriculture to the extent of 14 million, including 6 million in the rain –cultivated land , whose production fluctuates according to the amount of rainfall. Therefore, agricultural production contributes to achieving food security by no more than 30% as an average for various agricultural commodities. This is one of the biggest indicators of the food security deficit and therefore the increasing dependence of Iraq on imports and its negative effects on the economic structure.
It is clear that the Desertification is one of the main factors that hinder social and economic development and exacerbates economic problems that exacerbate environmental degradation. Thus, we face a vicious circle in the preservation of the environment. The state of the environment can not be separated from the state of the economy. Hence, economic backwardness and environmental degradation Reinforce each other to consecrate their existence.
The result of social desertification is the increasing migration of rural and pastoralists to cities for work and for better life, especially in drought years, creating increased pressure on limited urban potential and contributing to faster population growth than rural areas. These high growth rates are a burden on costly social services and at the expense of productive infrastructure. Migration pressure generates many social problems in cities such as low living standards, unemployment, lack of health and education services, lack of housing, tensions and social conflicts, insecurity, etc. It is known that many migrants live in slums and shantytowns on the outskirts of large cities “forming miserable communities vulnerable to disease and natural disasters
Despite recognizing the seriousness of desertification, but the means of combating it have not yet to live up to the threat posed by it at various environmental , economic, social, cultural, political and security levels . It is therefore necessary to give it the lead in development plans to combat it and develop plans that include direct objectives of stopping its progress, reclamation of deserted land, and reviving soil fertility and conservation from desertification.
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies