Iraq prohibits rice cultivation because of water scarcity
Iraq has banned farmers from growing rice and other water-intensive crops because of drought and shrinking freshwater flows, an agriculture ministry official said on Thursday.
A letter from Minister of Water Resources Hassan al-Janabi to the office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, seen by Reuters, said the ministry had decided to exclude rice and maize from the government's summer agriculture plan to give priority to drinking water, industry and vegetables.
The ministry spokesman said the ministry was not happy with the decision but could not stop it.
"The rice and maize have been removed from the summer agricultural plan because of the lack of water. We, as a ministry of agriculture, are embarrassed by the fact that the two crops are strategic crops and the farmers have prepared their land to grow the crops," Hamid Nayef said.
"The Ministry of Agriculture can not give approval to grow one dunum without the approval of the Ministry of Water Resources."
He pointed out that "Iraq planted 100 thousand acres of rice last season," and the area of the Iraqi dunam 2500 square meters.
Drought problems and shrinking water levels have been complicated by Turkey's plan to fill a huge dam on the Tigris River, which has already begun but has stalled after complaints from Iraq.
About 70 percent of Iraq's water resources come from its neighbors, and resources of particular importance are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that flow through Turkey.
Prime Minister Abadi said the government plans to extend water to the farmers, especially for the strategic wheat crop, but will reduce the land allocated for the cultivation of other crops that consume a lot of water.
Turkey has already delayed its plan to fill the reservoir of the giant Elso dam - the third largest reservoir of water supply in the world - to the beginning of July next, in response to Iraqi calls following the drop in water levels of the Tigris in half, after Turkey began to store water in the dam starting from the beginning This month.
This is the second time that Ankara has postponed the storage of water in the dam, in order to maintain water supplies to Iraq, which was scheduled to start storage of water in March, before delaying the date to the beginning of June.
Iraq has been suffering for years from the low levels of water Tigris and Euphrates, which depend on them to secure drinking water and irrigation plants.
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