Iraq Drought Claims Lakeside Resort: ‘No More Water’
Mohamed, an Iraqi businessman, has never experienced such a depressing tourist season: years of drought have reduced the majestic Lake Habbaniyah, driving away tourists who used to swarm there in the summer. According to 35-year-old Mohamed, who asked to only be identified by his first name, there had been some activity over the previous two years, but there is currently no water. In front of his lakeside shop, he set out inflatable water floats, nets, and shirts, but he didn’t anticipate many customers.
It’s extremely dry this year! Mohamed spoke to news agencies while drenched in sweat from the oppressive heat of almost 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit). After four years of drought-ravaged parts of the country, shorelines at Habbaniyah, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, have receded by several dozen meters. Iraq, a country with limited water resources, is one of the five nations listed by the UN as being most affected by some climate change effects.
According to Jamal Odeh Samir, director of water resources in Anbar province, where Habbaniyah is situated, the lake can hold up to 3.3 billion cubic meters (117 trillion cubic feet) of water when full, as it did when it was last in 2020. He told that the lake’s current volume of water is only 500 million cubic meters. In the height of summer, businesses like Mohamed’s and vacation homes by the lake are now deserted. Stray dogs can be seen on the beach pacing between empty umbrellas. Visitors must walk through foul-smelling mud that was once buried beneath the lake’s surface to reach the water.
‘Only place to relax’
In the years that followed, tourists from all over the Middle East began to flock to the resort, which had been built around the man-made lake. Habbaniyah, along with a large portion of the rest of the country, has been severely impacted by declining rainfall over the past four years and rising temperatures. Baghdad attributes the shockingly low water level in the Euphrates River, which feeds the lake and also flows through Syria, to upstream dam construction by Turkey.
Khaled Shamal, the ministry’s water resources spokesman, says Iraq’s strategic water reserves are at their lowest in almost a century. Volker Turk, the UN representative for human rights, warned last week during a visit to Baghdad that the drought, combined with rising temperatures, is a wake-up call for both Iraq and the rest of the world. The lake has subsided, according to Sada’a Saleh Mohamed, a local official in charge of the resort’s finances, and tourism has significantly declined.
According to him, the lake has turned into a stagnant pond that is unfit for swimming or drinking. A few people eventually showed up to barbecue on the beach as dusk fell and the temperature began to drop. From a nearby city called Fallujah, Qassem Lafta traveled here with his family. The water was higher when we used to come here before, according to the 45-year-old merchant. He expressed his desire for the lake to be revived. It is the only location where residents of Baghdad, southern Iraq, and Anbar can go to unwind.