Iraq hit by worst sandstorms in decades

July 6, 2009 at 7:19 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq hit by worst sandstorms in decades
Posted on : 2009-07-05  

 

 

Baghdad – The weather in Baghdad has been biblical of late. Great walls of sand, driven by scorching hot winds, have crashed against the walls and windows of the city, delaying historic business deals, waylaying diplomatic visits, even interfering with the city’s power supply. Iraqis on the streets of the capital lean into the wind, squint, and cover their faces with scarves or surgical masks as they battle the gritty gale. On Sunday the mercury has climbed to 43 degrees Celsius, and meteorologists forecast no relief in the next 24 hours at least. On Saturday, the sandstorms obliged US Vice President Joe Biden to cancel a planned visit to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous region (Biden telephoned to send his regrets and promised to visit again, Iraqi state television reported). 

Last week, a sandstorm delayed bidding on eight Iraqi oil and gas fields – the first such bids since the fall of Saddam Hussein – because flights could not land.

The country, parched by two years of drought, has not seen such a punishing wave of sandstorms in decades, government scientists say.

 

The Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities are urging citizens to combat desertification. Shepherds are being asked to minimize the damage their animals do by grazing on desert plants, particularly around urban areas, to help keep the dust anchored by roots.

 

“The dust storms will continue through the summer,” Fadel al-Firaji, director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s anti-desertification department, told the German Press Agency dpa.

 

“The bedouin in the desert, the stripping of the land’s natural vegetation, and the planting of grain crops in an arbitrary and ill-advised manner are to blame,” he said.

 

“Since the 1991 (Gulf War), military vehicles have been moving through desert areas,” he added. “This removed the packed, solid surface layer of the desert and exposed the land to wind erosion, which in turn damaged the shrubs in the desert.

 

The problem worsened after the tragic events of the 2003 (invasion of the Iraq).”

The storms almost completely halted the electrical supply to Baghdad last week.

 

“The storms have hurt the production of electrical power because the dust clogs the massive filters used to filter out air coming in to fuel gas powerplants,” Iraqi Minister of Electricity Karim Wahid said. “We have had to shut down the plants to clean or change the filters.”

 

“We usually clean these filters once a year, but lately the weather has made this maintenance more urgent. The cleaning requires hours of work and obliges us to stop the power plants from 9:00 am. to 7:00 pm,” he said.

 

The higher temperatures and the dust have also sent residents rushing to hospital, Mohammed Bahadli, a 35-year-old doctor said.

 

“The relentless storms have clogged the hospitals with tons of people suffering from chest and respiratory diseases and asthma. The corridors have been packed with hundreds of coughing, gasping patients. Many have died,” he said.

 

To counter the problem, vendors are doing a brisk business in surgical masks, now available in a variety of colours and sizes for 250 Iraqi dinars (21 US cents) a piece. They are particularly popular with civil-servants, professionals, and anyone who must work in an outdoor market.

 

Indoors, ordinary families face a daily, losing battle to keep their houses clean.

“Since the storms started more than a week ago, I haven’t been doing much else but clearing off the dust blanketing all the furniture, even the bed,” Faiza Sabri, a 43-year-old government clerk, told dpa.

 

“And since there’s no electricity, we can’t run the air conditioner, which would at least help filter out some of the dust,” she said. “We are left with no choice but to open the windows sometimes, just to let in a little air.”

 

Outdoors, despite all the money being spent on planting trees along Baghdad’s streets and public squares, and reconstructing buildings destroyed during the March 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign, the city looks drab and dusty.

 

When the storms finally subside, Baghdad residents, who have faced invasion, lethal bombings, a collapse in such basic services as power and water, will now face the daunting task of sweeping up the desert sands the punishing winds have driven into their city.

 

 

 

 http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/276178,iraq-hit-by-worst-sandstorms-in-decades–feature.html#

IRAQ: Death knell for agriculture?

April 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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IRAQ: Death knell for agriculture?

 

 

 

BAGHDAD, 28 April 2009 (IRIN) – Water shortages, high levels of salinity, and desertification appear to have badly affected agricultural production this last winter, according to officials from the Iraqi agriculture and water resources ministries.desertification. “Our concern is big and unprecedented,” al-Qaisi said. European Commission land management and natural hazards unit. agricrops to grow.

“We are suffering from a real and serious water crisis,” Mahdi al-Qaisi, undersecretary in the Agriculture Ministry, told IRIN in Baghdad. “We are not expecting winter season crops to meet local demand, and summer crops will probably be affected as well,” al-Qaisi said.

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