Iraqi farmer commits suicide over lack of water

An Iraqi farmer committed suicide on Thursday because a lack of water, which has forced hundreds of families to abandon their homes in recent years, had taken a toll on his land, officials said.

Salman Habib, 54, shot himself dead, leaving behind an 11-member family, including seven children, according to Ali Hussein Raddad, the mayor of Al-Islah town in Dhi Qar province, south Iraq.

"Salman suffered from severe psychological problems because of the difficult economic situation he was in, which pushed him to take these actions," Raddad told AFP.

According to Karim al-Jabiri, the head of Dhi Qar provincial council's agriculture committee, around 1,000 families have left their villages across the province because of a lack of water over the past two years.

The province, like much of southern Iraq, has suffered from reduced water flows along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as a result of dams and reductions in supplies upstream in Turkey and Syria, a persistent Iraqi complaint.

But the area is also suffering from desertification.

The environment ministry estimated in 2009 that 39 percent of Iraq's surface was affected by desertification, with an additional 54 percent under threat.

And while the ministry estimates that 28 percent of Iraq's territory is comprised of arable land, around 250 square kilometres (96 square miles) are lost every year due to degradation of various kinds.

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