Land and Resources, Environmental Issues
Two devastating wars and years of economic isolation have seriously degraded Iraq's environment. The Iran–Iraq War (1980-1988) and the Persian Gulf War (1991) destroyed wildlife habitat, polluted Iraq's land and water, and led to the neglect of conservation efforts.
During the Persian Gulf War, much of Iraq's infrastructure was destroyed, including equipment involved in the country's petroleum industry. Although Iraq has restored many oil wells and refineries since the end of the war, the Iraqi government contends that the international economic embargo established by the United Nations (UN) is preventing the repair of equipment needed to safely process the toxic by-products of oil refining. As a result, hazardous wastes are being released into the air or dumped into depleted wells.
In addition, the UN estimates that 10 million land mines are still buried in Iraq. The mines pose a continuing threat to the country's human and animal populations.
Iraq's farmland is declining in productivity as a result of soil salinization, which is caused by insufficient drainage and by saturation irrigation practices. Government water-control projects have destroyed wetland habitats in eastern Iraq by diverting or drying up tributary streams that formerly irrigated wetland areas.