The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture allocated more than 22 billion dinars last week to finance a wide range of anti-desertification projects.
The money will be invested in four major projects: contain sand dunes, build green oases, plant indigenous pastures, and construct water-storage projects.
"The ministry has allocated 10 billion dinars for the project to contain sand dunes," said Mohammad Ghazi, director general of the Anti-Desertification Commission. "The main site for the start of the project will be in Dhi Qar province but the work will be spread out to a number of provinces where sand belts are present."
Iraqi sand belts and dunes are generally found in the sediment valley east of Diwaniyah, as well as the eastern governorate of Maysan and the central region around Baijy.
"The ministry also allocated 2.9 billion dinars to finance the project for growing indigenous plants to revive indigenous shrubs and plants that depreciated several decades ago," he said. "The project will set up pastures in locations with concentrated desert plant populations, particularly in the middle and southern Euphrates regions."
The ministry also set aside 5 billion dinars to finance the project for establishing green oases, in addition to another 5 billion to build the Hammad reservoir project in Anbar province along the Syrian border. These water collection projects aim to assist nomadic cattle raisers.
According to Ghazi, these plans will mitigate the effects of the desertification in Iraq.
The drought crisis worsened in Iraq during 2007 and 2008 due to decreased rainfall, irrigation water misuse, and a drop in the Tigris' and the Euphrates' water levels.
According to ministry officials, Iraq has a medium rate of desertification, which may be periodically allayed through irrigation planning and conservation efforts made by the ministry.
"The issue of desertification in Iraq is rather difficult and serious for which the proper solutions must be found," said Kassim Hussein, member of the agriculture committee at the Iraqi parliament.
Hussein admitted to Mawtani that even though the anti-desertification funds allocated for the Ministry of Agriculture will ease the nation-wide problem, they will not completely eliminate it.
"The country needs a long time to wipe out the problem of desertification, especially since Iraq has suffered during the past few years from a shortage of water and little rainfall," he added.
However, Hussein lauded the initial steps taken by the ministry to address the problem.
"We call on the government to allocate additional funds in the future so that we would wipe out the desertification problem from which Iraq is suffering."