Environmental issues in Iraq
Numerous spills have resulted from damage to Iraq’s oil infrastructure, and the lack of water treatment facilities at Iraqi refineries has led to pollution from those installations.
Because of infrastructure damage, significant parts of the population do not have adequate water supply or sanitation systems.
Military operations in three wars (Iran–Iraq War, Gulf War, and Iraq War) have left unexploded ordnance and land mines in exposed positions, killing or wounding an estimated 100,000 people in the early 2000s.
Sites where municipal and medical wastes have accumulated carry the risk of disease epidemics. The wartime destruction of military and industrial infrastructure has released heavy metals and other hazardous substances into the air, soil, and groundwater.
In the alluvial plain, soil quality has been damaged by the deposit of large amounts of salts, borne by irrigation overflows and wind and promoted by poor soil drainage. Desertification and erosion also have reduced arable land.
Transboundary pollution and a lack of river basin management by the government have led to the degradation of Iraq's major waterways. Under Saddam Hussein, the government constructed the Glory Canal which drained the extensive marshes in the lower reaches of the alluvial plain, changing water circulation and wildlife patterns over a wide area. Beginning in 2004, some restoration has occurred.
According to a 2001 United Nations Environmental Programme report, the projects resulted in:
- The loss of a migration area for birds migrating from Eurasia to Africa, and consequent decrease in bird populations in areas such as the Ukraine and the Caucasus.
- Probable extinction of several plant and animal species endemic to the Marshes.
- Higher soil salinity in the Marshes and adjacent areas, resulting in loss of dairy production, fishing, and rice cultivation.
- Desertification of over 7,500 square miles (19,000 km2).
- Saltwater intrusion and increased flow of pollutants into the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, causing disruption of fisheries in the Persian Gulf.
Although the interim government appointed in 2004 included a Ministry of Environment, long-term environmental crises such as the depletion of marshland in the Shatt al Arab have a low priority.
- Nature Iraq, Iraq's first and only conservation group