Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Iraq 'green belt' front line against the desert

Terra Daily via AFP: Trees as far as the eye can see are the weapons one Iraqi province is using in the fight against desertification in a country where decades of conflict have exacted a terrible environmental toll.

Karbala, 110 kilometres (70 miles) south of Baghdad, is best known as the site of the shrines of Imam Hussein and Abbas, who are among the most revered figures in Shiite Islam, and sees millions of pilgrims visit every year.

But it is also the location of a six-year-old project aimed at fighting worsening desertification in Iraq: a "green belt", or a 27-kilometre crescent lined with thousands of young trees in orderly patterns, irrigated by dozens of wells. The area had been used as a military encampment but is now the front line of Karbala's battle against increasingly frequent sandstorms and salinisation of the land.

"If we do nothing, the desert will envelop us," said Hassan Jabbar, who heads the "green belt" project. "So we must go on the offensive, not on the defensive, and we must establish new irrigation projects."

The project has involved the planting of 62,000 olive trees, 20,500 palm trees, 37,000 eucalyptus trees, and 4,200 tamarind trees, all of which were chosen for their root strength as well as for the food some eventually produce...

The Al-Abbas Mosque in Karbala, shot by Jafarsalih, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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