A sandstorm at the Haditha Dam in Iraq. Photo: James McCauley/Creative Commons.
Though conflicts over sparse water supplies have created rifts between Turkey and its neighbors, the sandstorms they exacerbate have brought countries in the region together, signing an agreement this week to tackle soil erosion, air pollution, and desertification within the next five years.According to Agence France-Presse, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Qatar, and Turkey have signed an agreement at an environmental conference in Tehran to "establish a network of meteorological stations, regenerate vegetation to stabilize soil, and exchange expertise in these areas."
Sandstorms Cause Health Problems in Iraq
War-ravaged Iraq has been among the hardest-hit by sandstorms, which are worsened by the conflict-related loss of trees that stabilize the soil. Last summer, one particularly bad week-long sandstorm sent hundreds to the hospital with breathing difficulties, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty wrote at the time:
Iraq has long suffered blinding sandstorms, but several years of drought have aggravated the situation this year. The inadequate flow of water down its once-mighty rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, which are choked by dams in upstream countries like Turkey, has made things worse. Water shortages make the land dry out and become more dusty.
Disputes over water from the Tigris and Euphrates have long been a point of contention, but with the sandstorms spreading to Iran and Syria, traveling as far as 1,000 kilometers, Iraq's neighbors have apparently come to realize the fight is not one country's alone.
More about Iraq and the environment:
Water Scarcity Threatens Migratory Birds in Iraq
Nature Iraq's 'Second Creation Story' (Video)
Iraq to Turn Rotten Dates Into Bioethanol
Solar Powered Medical Clinic Will Save Lives in War Torn Iraq
Solar-Powered Street Lights to Illuminate Parts of Baghdad
Pentagon Plans Urban Renewal in Baghdad's Green Zone
Making The Iraq War More Eco-Friendly
Intrepid Group Sows Seeds of Environmental Awareness Among Iraqi Youth
Iraq Again Focuses Attention on U.S., This Time By Ratifying Kyoto