It was the river that’s mentioned to have watered the biblical Backyard of Eden and helped give delivery to civilisation itself.
However immediately the Tigris is dying.
Human exercise and local weather change have choked its as soon as mighty circulate by way of Iraq, the place, with its twin river the Euphrates, it made Mesopotamia a cradle of civilisation 1000’s of years in the past.
Iraq could also be oil wealthy however the nation is stricken by poverty after many years of struggle and by droughts and desertification.
Battered by one pure catastrophe after one other, it is among the 5 nations most uncovered to local weather change, in accordance with the United Nations.
From April onwards, temperatures exceed 35 levels Celsius (95 levels Fahrenheit) and intense sandstorms usually flip the sky orange, masking the nation in a movie of mud.
Hellish summers see the mercury prime a blistering 50 levels Celsius, close to the restrict of human endurance, with frequent energy cuts shutting down air con for thousands and thousands.
The Tigris, the lifeline connecting the storied cities of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra, has been choked by dams, most of them upstream in Turkey, and falling rainfall.
The Tigris’s course by way of Iraq begins within the mountains of northern Iraq’s Kurdish area, close to the borders of Turkey and Syria, the place native individuals increase sheep and develop potatoes.
Iraq’s authorities and Kurdish farmers accuse Turkey, the place the Tigris has its supply, of withholding water in its dams, dramatically lowering the circulate into Iraq.
In accordance with Iraqi official statistics, the extent of the Tigris coming into Iraq has dropped to only 35 p.c of its common over the previous century.
Baghdad often asks Ankara to launch extra water.
However Turkey’s ambassador to Iraq, Ali Riza Guney, urged Iraq to “use the obtainable water extra effectively”, tweeting in July that “water is essentially wasted in Iraq”.
All that’s left of the river Diyala, a tributary that meets the Tigris close to the capital, Baghdad, within the central plains, are puddles of stagnant water dotting its parched mattress.
Drought has dried up the watercourse that’s essential to the area’s agriculture.
This yr authorities have been pressured to scale back Iraq’s cultivated areas by half, that means no crops will probably be grown within the badly-hit Diyala governorate.
The World Financial institution warned final yr that a lot of Iraq is more likely to face an identical destiny.
“By 2050 a temperature enhance of 1 diploma Celsius and a precipitation lower of 10 p.c would trigger a 20 p.c discount of obtainable freshwater,” it mentioned.
The Worldwide Group for Migration mentioned final month that “local weather components” had displaced greater than 3,300 households in Iraq’s central and southern areas within the first three months of this yr.
This summer season in Baghdad, the extent of the Tigris dropped so low that individuals performed volleyball in the midst of the river, splashing barely waist-deep by way of its waters.
Iraq’s Ministry of Water Sources blames silt due to the river’s decreased circulate, with sand and soil as soon as washed downstream now settling to kind sandbanks.
Till not too long ago the Baghdad authorities used heavy equipment to dredge the silt, however with money tight, work has slowed.
Years of struggle have destroyed a lot of Iraq’s water infrastructure, with many cities, factories, farms and even hospitals left to dump their waste straight into the river.
As sewage and garbage from Larger Baghdad pour into the shrinking Tigris, the air pollution creates a concentrated poisonous soup that threatens marine life and human well being.
Environmental insurance policies haven’t been a excessive precedence for Iraqi governments scuffling with political, safety and financial crises.
Ecological consciousness additionally stays low among the many normal public, mentioned activist Hajer Hadi of the Inexperienced Local weather group, even when “each Iraqi feels local weather change by way of rising temperatures, decrease rainfall, falling water ranges and dirt storms,” she mentioned.
However one other menace is affecting the Shatt al-Arab: salt water from the Gulf is pushing ever additional upstream because the river circulate declines.
The United Nations and native farmers say rising salination is already hitting farm yields, in a development set to worsen as world warming raises sea ranges.
Final month native authorities reported that salt ranges within the river north of Basra reached 6,800 elements per million, almost seven instances that of recent water.