The main irrigation reservoir in Iraq is close to drying up

Iraq’s Lake Hamrin, a once vast reservoir northeast of Baghdad that is the only source of water for irrigation in Diyala province, has nearly dried up, a senior official said on Friday.

Successive years of low rainfall and a sharp reduction in the water flow of the Sirwan River from neighboring Iran have reduced much of the lake to a bowl of dust, the official told AFP.

“There has been a sharp reduction in the water level – reserves currently stand at 130 million cubic meters compared to the normal two billion cubic meters,” said Aoun Dhiab, a senior adviser at the water ministry.

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Dhiab said a number of factors were to blame, including the prolonged drought and Iranian plans to build dams and divert rivers upstream.

Dhiab said it was not the first time water levels had fallen so low. “In 2009, the lake completely dried up. There was only one stream.

He said the impact on surrounding farmland should not be underestimated.

“There are no other sources of water in the province – the volume coming into Lake Hamrin is the volume used in the province.”

He said the government had asked Iran to increase the flow of water across the border. Otherwise, all that could be done was to pray for more rainfall next year.

The problem is not exclusive to Diyala province. The World Bank predicts that without major changes, Iraq will have lost 20% of its water resources by 2050.

The country is ranked among the five countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and desertification. Water shortages have led this year to reduced quotas for rice and wheat farmers.

Iraq’s upstream neighbors Iran, Turkey and Syria have similar shortcomings, meaning its pleas for help are generally ignored.

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