Iraq already crushed by the heat wave

The thermometer explodes. It’s 45 degrees in Basra, southern Iraq, and summer is just beginning. An unusual heat wave hit Iraq in June, where high temperatures are the norm. In Baghdad, the mercury scuffed above 50 degrees under shelter earlier this month, according to state broadcaster Iraqiya.

In Basra, where the air is heavy with heavy humidity from the Gulf, even the Iraqis are “vacillating”, says a resident, Oum Mohammed, “woken up in the middle of the night” by the heat. Due to lack of maintenance and capacity, the electrical network is failing and only provides a few hours of power per day. Paying the owner of a private generator is not within the reach of all budgets: around 100 euros per month for a family of four.

Iraq on the front line of global warming

A summer in hell, after a spring punctuated by a dozen sand and dust storms, themselves caused by climate change and the desertification of Iraq, according to meteorologists. “With the heat waves and sandstorms which will increase, we expect to treat more patients for pathologies linked to the climate”, explains Seif Al-Badr, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health to AFP.

The climate is changing, temperatures are rising and Iraq is at the forefront, warns its president Barham Saleh. He called for making the fight against the effects of climate change “a national priority, because it is an existential threat for future generations”.

” It’s hell “

In the countryside, the harvests promise to be catastrophic. “Desertification affects 39% of Iraqi land, water scarcity is a problem in all our regions,” said Barham Saleh. But for now, the climate is relegated to the background of the political agenda. Eight months after the legislative elections, the majority Shiite parties have still not managed to agree on the name of the new Prime Minister. The current head of government Moustafa Kazimi handles current affairs.

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For Nataq al-Khafaji, a resident of Nassiriya (south), this means “living without electricity”. It was 44 degrees that day. “I’m still fine, but for children and the elderly, it’s very hard,” he says. ” It’s hell “. Iraq may be one of the countries best endowed with hydrocarbons in the world, but it is facing an energy shortage. It therefore turned to Iran, which supplies it with a third of its gas consumption to run its power plants.

And that’s just the beginning

However, Baghdad left a $1.6 billion bill outstanding for two years to Tehran, which cut off gas for a few weeks in the spring. Iraq finally settled its bill in mid-June. But that does not prevent power cuts several times a day.

The level of the rivers continues to drop due to rainfall deficits and dams built by Turkish and Iranian neighbors. And that’s just the start. The World Bank​ has estimated that without appropriate policies, Iraq could experience a 20% drop in its available freshwater resources by 2050.

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