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News Water shortage fueling displacement of people in northern Iraq, UNESCO study finds

Over 100,000 people in northern Iraq have been forced to evacuate their homes since 2005 because of severe water shortages, a UNESCO study finds. Drought and excessive well pumping have drawn down aquifer levels in the region, causing a dramatic decline of water flow in ancient underground aqueducts, known in Iraq as karez, upon which hundreds of communities depend.

The study is the first to document the effects of the ongoing drought on the karez systems, which thousands of Iraqis have depended upon for their drinking water and farming for centuries.

Designed especially for the arid climate, karez are renowned for their ability to remain productive even during dry spells. However, UNESCO's study confirms that since the onset of drought four years ago, 70% of the active karez have dried up. The overexploitation of groundwater by modern pumped wells has also been a major factor. By August of this year, only 116 of 683 karez systems in northern Iraq still supplied water to their beneficiaries.

Contact information Casey Walther, UNESCO Iraq (email: )
Phone: + (962-6) 59 02 340
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Geographical coverage Iraq
News date 27/10/2009
Working language(s) RHAETO-ROMANCE