Cross-posted from TomDispatch. This report appears in the winter 2009/10 issue of World Policy Journal and is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine.
BAGHDAD — From his mud brick home on the edge of the Garden of Eden, Awda Khasaf has twice seen his country’s lifeblood seep away. The waters that once spread from his doorstep across a 20 percent slab of Iraq known as the Marshlands first disappeared in 1991, when Saddam Hussein diverted them east to punish the rebellious Marsh Arabs. The wetlands have been crucial to Iraq since the earliest days of civilization — sustaining the lives of up to half a million people who live in and around the area, while providing water for almost two million more.
The waters vanished after the First Gulf War due to a dictator’s wrath; over the next 16 years, they ebbed and flowed, but slowly started to return to their pre-Saddam levels. By 2007, with no more sabotage and average rains, almost 70 percent of the lost water had been recovered. Now it’s gone again. This time because of a crisis far more endemic: a devastating drought and the water policies of neighboring Turkey,... Read more