BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi capital has been experiencing an increasing number of sandstorms, the result of worsening desertification that requires massive resources to keep in check, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports (RFI).
The head of the Agricultural Ministry's antidesertification department, Fadhil al-Farraji, told RFI that the amount of desert land in Iraq has grown in recent years to an estimated 81.25 million hectares.
Al-Farraji said antidesertification work involves dune stabilization, growing fodder plants that withstand the desert climate, building grazing stations, and protecting oases.
He added that these steps require much more than the $2.57 million that has been allocated to his antidesertification department.
Saeb Jassim of the Baghdad health directorate told RFI there has been a significant increase in the number of people treated for respiratory problems, as well as skin and eye inflammation, as dust storms usually carry both chemical and microbial pollutants.