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Fossil fuel reliance spits out emissions and consumes vital water supplies in Iraq

Posted on 03.06.23

Pollution from gas flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – is also a major concern in the oil-rich but extremely dry south

Sara Manisera and Daniela Sala in Al Khora
Sat 3 Jun 2023 06.00 BST

Last modified on Sat 3 Jun 2023 06.36 BST

Western oil companies are exacerbating water shortages and causing pollution in Iraq as they race to profit from rising oil prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Water scarcity has already displaced thousands and increased instability, according to international experts, while Iraq is now considered the fifth most vulnerable country to the climate crisis by the UN. In the oil-rich but extremely dry south, wetlands that used to feed entire communities are now muddy canals.

Mahdi Mutir, 57, worked as a fisher his entire life. For years, Mutir and his wife woke at dusk, sailing along a thick network of canals in Al Khora, a few kilometres north of Basra. The harvest was meagre but enough to provide food for the family of seven.

That changed last year. Now, at the height of the rainy season, Mutir’s boat lies stranded in the mud.

“It is the water station the Italian company built: they need water for their oilfields,” Mutir said, pointing at the black smoke rising from the Zubayr oilfield on the horizon.

To help extract oil, companies pump large quantities of water into the ground. For each barrel of oil, many of which are later exported to Europe, up to three barrels of water are pumped into the ground. And as Iraq’s oil exports rise, its water has dramatically fallen.

For more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/03/iraqs-oil-boom-blamed-for-worsening-water-crisis-in-drought-hit-south

This story was produced with assistance from Journalismfund Europe