Extent, Characterization and Causes of Soil Salinity in Central and Southern Iraq and Possible Reclamation Strategies
Poor irrigation practices and lack of drainage facilities have contributed to rising groundwater tables leading to soil salinization in the irrigated areas of central and southern Iraq. Salinity problems has robbed the production potential of the 70% of the total irrigated area of Iraq with up to 30% gone completely out of production. This situation has threatened the sustainability of irrigated agriculture which produces more than 70% of the total cereal production in Iraq. Most of the reclamation efforts in the past have focussed on the installation of surface drainage systems. Other management approaches such as excessive leaching, crop-based management and chemical amendments have also been used on a limited scale to enhance productivity of these soils. However success has been limited and the problems of salinity kept on increasing. Therefore there is an urgent need to develop a national strategy for the rehabilitation of these soils. This strategy should include establishment of an effective monitoring network to record spatial and temporal changes in the soil salinity and water quality. Rehabilitation of existing drainage systems and installation of new drainage systems in the needed areas should be given priority. Involvement of communities in the planning of such projects is necessary for sustainable and effective operation and maintenance of these projects.