Venice of The Middle East

What a difference a year makes.

I took these two pictures from roughly the same location, but about a year apart. 2018 was completely dry, 2019 is completely flooded. Although where I took the pictures is quite far away from the city of Basra, it does show the importance of water to the livelihood of local people.

Basra was once nicknamed “Venice of the East”. It was a prosperous and thriving city. People used to travel to Basra for holidays. Two biggest rivers in Iraq, Tigris and Euphrates, meet here to form the Shatt al-Arab. The city is penetrated by a complex network of canals and streams, vital for irrigation and other agricultural use (Wikipedia)

But Iraq’s great rivers are dying. You see, Tigris and Euphrates flow through Iraq, but they don’t have control over them. Both rivers begin in Turkey. In fact, over 80% of Iraq’s water comes from its neighboring countries. To make the matter worse, these countries have been keeping more and more water for themselves. This means Iraq is not getting enough water. Basra, located in the south of the country, bear the worst blunt of the water shortage. This, combined with crumbling infrastructure due to years of mismanagement, results in yearly water crisis and violent protests. Vox has made a great video about the water crisis in Basra which you can view below. I also wrote about my experience during the protest last year.

The road to recovery is long and unpredictable.

I really have no clue how they are going to fix the water crisis. What you see is not only because of Iraq’s neighboring countries, but also a result of systematic failure of the Iraqi government, political instability, and constant interference by regional and global powers to gain control over Iraq. Oil might be free flowing here, but the water is scarce and poisonous. 

When I looked back at the two photos of kids playing in the field and in the water, they reminded me of the playful spirit of the youth. Perhaps this might be the only thing could revive Basra back to its former glory.

Further info on Basra’s water crisis:

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