Lake Sawa, once known as “Pearl of the South”, in Iraq, has completely dried up for the first time. Located about 300 kilometers from Baghdad, the once-thriving salt lake near the city of Samawah is now the site of abandoned hotels and chunks of salt.
High evaporation rates have created salt deposits around “feeder” springs. This has blocked water from reaching the lake.
The situation has been exacerbated by construction activity along the shoreline. An estimated 1,000 wells have been dug around the lake, draining pockets of groundwater. Cement and salt factories have further increased the strain on water resources in the area.
Hamid al-Nayef, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture, commented: ““The land investors near the lake have illegally and randomly dug more than 1,000 wells, which caused a shortage in the lake’s water.”
What was, in the 1990’s, a tourist hotspot and home of a biodiverse ecosystem has now become desertified.
Aoun Diab, from the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, said: “Indications of a decrease in the lake water started gradually years ago as a result of agricultural investments in the Samawah desert, where the lake is located.” However, this result seems to be a consequence of multiple factors, he says: ““The drying of the lake is also a natural result of the drought that has affected the Western desert and the Samawah desert, which have not seen rain for years.”