The Iraq Salinity Project was created in 2010 to understand the current salinity crisis and improve livelihoods through sustainable use of available water and soil resources in central and southern Iraq. It aims to evaluate the economic impact of salinity and produce a “road-map” to manage the problem over a 15 year time frame.
This project determines the contribution of the various complex factors at play in the current low agricultural productivity in Iraq. The inefficiency of the irrigation and drainage system had contributed extensively to the degradation of physical infrastructure. Institutional capacity in the agricultural sector also needs to be upgraded along with intensified training for the Iraqi farmers.
The rivers in the Mesopotamian plain both act as water supply systems and as drains. As drains they receive saline irrigation drainage water, saline flows from springs and constructed drainage systems and saline run inflows from various saline lakes and depressions. To date, the management of the irrigation and drainage systems has failed to maintain delivery of fresh water to the lower reaches of the system. This is probably due to deterioration in infrastructure and lack of management.
The project team is studying salt distribution, irrigation and water salinity at different levels- farm, irrigation and river basin. Research findings are synthesized in the Assessment Report which will be used to develop policy and investment options in partnership with the international development agencies and donor community.
Other geographical areas with conditions similar to those prevailing in the salt-affected areas in Iraq are the irrigation-based agricultural production systems in the Aral Sea Basin, which is fed by two main rivers, the Amu-Darya and the Syr-Darya. Recent estimates reveal that more than 50% of irrigated soils in this basin are salt-affected and/or waterlogged.
The Project builds on earlier research and benefits from the Australian experience in managing salinity in soil and water. Salinity and agro-hydrological challenges faced by Iraq are similar to those faced in Australia’s Murray-Darling river basin. Australia has succeeded in reducing the negative effects of salinity and today salinity has been reversed in many areas.
The project is an initiative of the Government of Iraq, Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources, Higher Education, Environment, and Science and Technology, and an international research team led by ICARDA-the Internatioanal Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas in partnership with the University of Western Australia, the Commonwealth Scientific and industrial Research Organization (SCIRO) Australia, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Srilanka, and the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
This research is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), AusAID and the Italian Government.
Richard Soppe, Project Leader,Senior Marginal Water Use and Salinity Management Specialist, International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas
PO Box 950764, Amman 11195, Jordan
E-mail: r.soppe [at] cgiar.org
Kasim Ahmed Saliem, Project Coordinator, State Board of Agricultural Research, Head of Planning and Follow-up Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Iraq
E-mail: drkasim52 [at] yahoo.com