Water Scarcity Report on Iraq

Photo: IOM 2012

By Sieun Lee

Climate change is highly likely to cause increase of drought in already dry areas, which will lead to decrease of water availability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report underlines such negative impacts of climate change on water which affect all regions of the world and various sectors.

IOM Iraq’s Special Report on Water Scarcity (June 2012) reveals the negative impacts of reduced access to water due to drought conditions, cites drought as a key factor for displacement.  IDPs in governorates such as Muthana and Thi-Qar named drought as the contributory factor for displacement over others such as conflict and lack of employment opportunities. The insufficient supply and low quality of water causes significant reduction in crop yields which in turn forces people to leave their agricultural communities. Since 2007, the number of rural inhabitants that have left their original communities has reached 20,000.

The report also noted an increase of conflict at the local level. Tension and verbal arguments due to water stress and competition, often occurring every day, was reported during the assessment period.  Ethnic tensions related to access to water were also felt in the some regions which carry the potential of leading to bigger ethnic conflicts.

Environmental degradation can not only cause displacement but also prevent people from returning to their place of origin. IDP families in the marshland governorates of Basra, Missan and Thi-Qar cited water scarcity and high salinity and/or pollution levels as a major factor preventing their return.

This special report measured the impact of water scarcity on vulnerable population in Iraq. The report is available for download on IOM Iraq’s website here.