Mesopotamia’s ‘Fertile Crescent’ may disappear this century

July 28th, 2009 - 2:27 pm ICT by ANI  

London, July 28 (ANI): Climate modellers are warning that the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Near East, incorporating the Levant and Mesopotamia, may disappear in this century, with the current drought likely to become permanent.

According to a report in New Scientist, the death knell for the Fertile Crescent has been rung as Turkish dams reduce the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to a trickle, farmers abandon their desiccated fields across Iraq and Syria, and efforts to revive the Mesopotamian marshes appear to be abandoned.

In ancient times, the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers through Iraq were bountiful - irrigating fields that sustained civilizations like Sumeria and cities like Babylon.

But, the combination of drought, dams and Iraq’s own desire to revive its agriculture is placing huge pressure on the last remnant of that bounty, the Mesopotamian marshes, which form where the Tigris and Euphrates meet and flow to the sea.

The marshes were deliberately drained by Saddam Hussein. But after 2003, there was an international effort to revive them.

The UN Environment Programme reported on progress until 2006, when the Iraqi water ministry took over monitoring.

As concerns grew that the Iraqi government was once again diverting scarce water away from the marshes to maintain agriculture, reporting abruptly stopped.

“The marshes are getting smaller,” said Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American campaigner for their revival.

Drought has helped precipitate the crisis. The most detailed assessment of the Fertile Crescent’s future under climate change suggests flow on the Euphrates could fall by 73 per cent.

“The ancient Fertile Crescent will disappear in this century,” forecasts Akio Kitoh of Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan. “The process has already begun,” he added. (ANI)

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