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Why Iraq’s great rivers are dying

And it couldn’t happen at a worse time.

Iraq is in a fragile state. The country is trying to rebuild itself after thirty years of near constant war. But a new crisis has emerged that could undermine its recovery - Iraq is running out of water.

Iraq gets the vast majority of its water from two rivers; the Euphrates and the Tigris. Both run down the length of the country supplying drinking water, irrigation, and hydroelectricity to a booming population. It’s hard to imagine Iraq existing without these rivers. But today, they are in peril.

The Euphrates in Iraq is down to a quarter of its normal flow. In 2018, the Tigris sunk so low that people in Baghdad could wade across it. Where these rivers combine, called the Shatt al-Arab, became so poisonous last summer that 100,000 people were hospitalized; sparking riots in the city of Basra.

This episode of Vox Atlas explains how Iraq’s water crisis emerged because of geography and its violent history and it’s become the most pressing issue the country faces.

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