The agriculture ministry has started work on a project to create green oases in various parts of the country as a way to combat a increasing desertification due to water shortages, according to a report from AKnews.
The oases will be planted with palm trees and cultivated for agricultural purpose with irritation from wells. The total cost of the projects will be 5 billion Iraqi dinars ($4 million).
“The Ministry has started implementing 7 projects to create large agricultural oases each with an area of 200 to 800 dunums (50-200 hectares) of land” said director of desertification control in the ministry, Mohammed Ghazi al-Akhras.
Five of the oases will be located in the desert areas of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province. Nineveh and Basra provinces will have one oasis each.
Large parts of Iraq that were once productive farmland have already turned into arid desert. The ministry says that between 40 and 50 per cent of what was agricultural land in the 1970s is now a barren wasteland.
The ministry of agriculture has so far completed 28 oases all over Iraq. It has announced plans to plant some 20 million trees as a way to address the issue.
Iraqi analysts claim that desertification has increased sharply in recent years as neighboring countries Turkey, Syria and Iran take more and more water. The Iraqi government has been highly critical of these actions which mean that during the summer months many rivers run dry shortly after they pass into Iraq.
The collapse in the water levels of the rivers has been swift. In 2000, the flow speed of the Euphrates was 950 cubic meters per second, but by this year it had dropped to 230 cubic meters per second.
Desertification also affects the cities. Sandstorms have become more frequent in recent years, sometimes bringing urban centers to stand-still and grounding planes.