A Cruel, Cruel Summer? In Karbala, Iraq, Locals Plan Ahead for Serious Drought
The district of Husseiniya, north-east of the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, used to look more like a forest. This was because of all the orchards and trees in this district and the river that passes through here, also called Husseiniya.
The river has been a constant here – until now. It’s been a very dry winter in this part of Iraq and water levels have fallen considerably.
Now farmers in the area don’t know if the water will be enough to irrigate their crops and they fear this may be one of the worst summers ever, thanks to the drought they’re all predicting.
The Husseiniya Rover is just one example of a water source that’s becoming increasingly muddy and shallow. Others include the Hindiyah and Hunaydiyah rivers.
“We have heard people talking about the decrease in water levels and we have seen it with our own eyes too,” says Sijad Kathim, a 56-year-old local farmer. “We’re really starting to worry that even ordinary people won’t be able to get water anymore.”
Karbala locals fear another drought as bad as that in 2008, which caused many to leave their homes and farms for, literally, greener pastures.
And it seems as though the local authorities are similarly perplexed. Many of the water treatment plants here are not working properly at the moment.
“About 15 of these plants have stopped working because of the decrease in water levels,” says Karbala central’s mayor, Hassan al-Mankousi. “And this has prompted the local government to intervene and dig new holes to keep a number of them running.”
The authorities have been digging what are known as infiltration wells near the rivers in order to increase water flow. However this method, which has been useful in the past, could prove useless if the Euphrates’ levels drop further. The authorities say they are also digging artesian wells that can be connected to household water supplies if necessary.
“This seems to be the only choice left if water levels continue to decrease in such a rapid and frightening way,” local agricultural engineer Fayed Abdul-Razak told NIQASH. “But the amount of water that these wells can produce is unlikely to be able to meet the needs of the more than 1 million people living in this area, let alone the agricultural needs.”