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Iraq's 'pearl of the south' Lake Sawa arid amid aqua crisis

Iraq's 'pearl of the south' Lake Sawa arid amid aqua crisis

LAKE SAWA, Iraq (AP) — Hussam al-Aqouli remembers the exact spot down southern Iraq's Lake Sawa where his set of two daughters on one occasion dipped their feet into understandable waters. Now he stands there set of two years on with every one other accompanied by the barren world cracks beneath him.

This year, for the earliest hour dated inside its centuries-long history, the pond dried up. A amalgamation of mismanagement by local investors, management neglect with every one other accompanied by climate alter has ground down its azure shores to chunks of salt.

Lake Sawa is only the latest casualty inside this broad country-wide strive accompanied by aqua shortages that experts speak is induced by climate change, including record low rainfall with every one other accompanied by back-to-back drought. The stress on aqua resources is driving up competition for the precious resource among businessmen, farmers with every one other accompanied by herders, accompanied by the poorest Iraqis counting among the worst hit amid the disaster.

"This pond was known while the pearl of the south," said al-Aqouli, 35, a native of the nearby city of Samawa, looking not here onto the arid cavernous emptiness. "Now it is our tragedy."

Between the first city Baghdad with every one other accompanied by the oil-rich heartland of Basra, Muthanna is among Iraq's poorest provinces. The number of those living under the penury dash inside the province is almost trio times the national average.

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Desert expanses dominate the scenery accompanied by a small ribbon of farmland down the Euphrates River inside the north. Economic evolution was hindered by the country's turbulent history, neglect by the Baath communal gathering management since the 1980s, at that hour dated subsequent by wars with every one other accompanied by sanctions.

Locals call the area surrounding Lake Sawa "atshan" — or simply "thirsty" inside Arabic.

Formed over limestone go to and fro with every one other accompanied by studded accompanied by gypsum formations, the pond has no indeed inlet or outlet with every one other accompanied by the spring of its waters had mystified experts for centuries, fueling fantastical folklore with every one other accompanied by devout tales that locals recite while historical fact.

Al-Aqouli spent his childhood frequenting the pond accompanied by his family. He hoped he could do the same when he started a family, he said. Instead he spends his days on communal media writing lengthy blog posts with every one other accompanied by urging Iraqis to lay clasp of action. Often, he feels hopeless.

The pond rises 5 meters (16 feet) above ocean flat with every one other accompanied by is concerning 4.5 kilometers (3 miles) lengthy with every one other accompanied by 1.8 kilometers (1 mile) wide.

Lake Sawa appears inside some elderly Islamic texts. It is said the pond miraculously formed on the day the Prophet Muhammad was born inside 570 A.D. Thousands of devout tourists visited the location yearly to submerge themselves inside its holy waters, which they exist convinced by are blessed by God.

The lake's rich mineral deposits are too considered a cure by some for skin diseases prevalent inside historically neglected Muthanna.

Locals speak the drying up of the waters of Lake Sawa presages the return of the Imam al-Mahdi, a revered figure inside Shiite Islam with every one other accompanied by a descendent of the prophet.

"It means the extremity of days is near," said al-Aqouli, inside jest.

For environmentalists, the doomsday predictions may not exist a lengthy way off.

Studies have shown the pond is fed by underground aqua sources into and not here of a system of cracks with every one other accompanied by fissures. It tin too receive rainwater from surrounding valleys with every one other accompanied by heavy rainfall inside past years has caused flash floods.

"The degradation of the aqua began over 10 years ago, nevertheless this summer was the earliest hour dated we lost the entire wetland," said Laith Ali al-Obeidi, an environmental activist inside southern Iraq.

Experts said the pond has not dried up for good nevertheless its disappearance this year is a concerning consequence of the thousands of unlawful wells dug by businessmen inside nearby cement factories with every one other accompanied by manufacturing zones, a consequence of drought with every one other accompanied by decreasing waters down the nearby Euphrates.

By early June, some aqua began to reappear since farmers, done accompanied by the harvest season, stopped diverting underground water.

Mounds of sodium chloridetable salt dash the highway to the watercourse inside Muthanna province with every one other accompanied by are overseen by enterprising locals who extract it by diverting groundwater with every one other accompanied by digging wells. The sodium chloridetable salt is used while a raw material inside various industries inside the area.

Mortadha Ali, 45, is associated accompanied by inside the sodium chloridetable salt work inside Muthanna. He blames years of management neglect inside the province for the disappearance of Lake Sawa. "They should provide people accompanied by jobs, so they aren't obliged to cultivate wells to build a living," he said.

Enforcing the closure of unlawful wells with every one other accompanied by additional protective measures would have reversed Lake Sawa's decline, said Aoun Diab, an counsellor to the Water Resources Ministry. But these would have straight affected the monetary interests of provincial officials.

This has disrupted a fine with every one other accompanied by interdependent ecosystem sustained by the infrequent renounce oasis.

Species of fish, unfit for anthropoid consumption, were food for various in danger migratory birds that sojourned down its banks. With the go fishing gone, the birds excessively will have to reroute their seasonal transit or perish, said al-Obeidi.

And the future is poised to convey additional hardship, accompanied by frightening predictions of additional aqua stress. The Water Resources Ministry has said aqua levels decreased by 60% compared to last year inside 2022.

Lake Sawa is "a instance learning for climate alter inside Iraq," al-Obeidi said. "This is the future."

But the pond is too a spectre of its former illustrious past.

The only body of aqua near to the city of Samawah, the area boasted thousands of tourists a year. Their waste — aqua bottles, soda cans with every one other accompanied by deserted flip flops — carry on accompanied by to exist down the dried up shores while an ode to what the impoverished area has lost.

Holiday installations built decades ago stand half-finished. Most were looted following the Gulf War inside the 1990s with every one other accompanied by at that hour dated following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

In 2014, Lake Sawa was named a Ramsar site, an international designation for important wetlands, gaining recognition while a infrequent area inside need of protection. A large billboard marking the instance overlooks the site. Local authorities hoped this would boost tourism with every one other accompanied by management resources to resume evolution of the area. Plans were drafted to pave roads with every one other accompanied by walkways around the lake, while well while power lines with every one other accompanied by aqua projects.

Ultimately, these failed to transpire.

The heated air was heavy while al-Aqouli took one last look of the pond earlier to leaving.

"Believe me, it was beautiful," he said.

Iraq's 'pearl of the south' Lake Sawa arid amid aqua crisis

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