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Drought, Dams Force Iraqi Farmers To Abandon Crops

A rural resident of Iraq's Diyala Province in May.
BAGHDAD -- Local Iraqi officials say hundreds of families have left their villages in the northeastern province of Diyala in recent weeks after drought and low river levels from Iran turned their agricultural fields into a wasteland, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Farmers told RFI that dams erected by Iran have reduced the flow of the Harran River from Iran to a trickle, and they cannot afford the price of fuel to pump the remaining water up to their fields.

One man said he and other farmers have to share the water collectively bought by villagers in tankers with their chickens, cattle, and dogs.

Tuhmaya, a village near the Iranian border and one of the worst hit by the water shortage, is almost completely deserted.

Abd al-Hussein Abbas, the chief administrator of the nearby town of Mandali, told RFI that U.S. forces in the area have supplied the remaining families with four tankers of water and the town government is sending one tanker full of water each day. Abbas added that attempts have been made to alleviate the situation by drilling wells, but even the animals could not drink the water from these wells due to the high salt levels.

Iman Abd al-Wahab, the chairwoman of the Diyala Provincial Council's services committee, told RFI that all outlying villages have seen extensive migration as the security situation made it extremely difficult to bring relief to these communities. She invited those who have left to seek local authorities in aiding them to return to their hometowns.