Drought decimate buffaloes in Iraq’s southern marshes
The dry earth is cracked beneath his feet and thick layers of salt coat shriveled reeds in the Chibayish wetlands amid this year’s dire shortages in freshwater flows from the Tigris River.
Hashem already lost five buffaloes from his herd of 20 since May, weakened with hunger and poisoned by the salty water seeping into the low-lying marshes. Other buffalo herders in the area say their animals have died too, or produce milk that’s unfit to sell.
“This place used to be full of life,” he said. “Now it’s a desert, a graveyard.”
The wetlands — a lush remnant of the cradle of civilization and a sharp contrast to the desert that prevails elsewhere in the Middle East — were reborn after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, when dams he had built to drain the area and root out Shiite rebels were dismantled.
But today, a drought that experts believe is spurred by climate change and invading salt, coupled with a lack of political agreement between Iraq and Turkiye, is endangering the marshes, which surround the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq.