New satellite mapping of the canal system of Basra, Iraq, reveals an environmental disaster in the waterways.
A study deploying United Nation's Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) technology, conducted by REACH, highlights and emphasises the deterioration in this vital infrastructure. Additional, on-the-ground, investigation is required to understand the full extent of the solid waste incursion and resultant pollution.
The criss-crossed canals once provided an abundance of freshwater throughout the city. These are now heavily polluted with floating trash, more “solid trash islands”, trash that is connected to a solid bank, algae and vegetation. All these blockages are affecting the delivery of water throughout the city.
The pollution is causing a reduction in the discharge of the Shatt-al-Arab River and as water levels decrease, the concentration of pollutants increases. Sewage, industrial trash, household trash, pesticides and encroaching seawater are contaminating the downstream flow.
As a consequence, turbidity increases causing rising levels of sediment that cannot be processed by antiquated and under-maintained water treatment facilities.
In addition, the water contains dangerous levels of chemicals, toxic algae, and bacteria and is highly saline.
Solid waste in these waters endanger the health of the local population, which is reliant on this water to meet their needs. With expected population growth and the effects of climate change, conditions are expected to deteriorate further without some meaningful intervention.
The authors say that further study would provide vital information into the health and economic implications of this contamination, the effect on the relevant populations, the patterns to the pollution and any successful mitigation processes.