Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say

When will the inhabitants of Planet Earth realize that we have caused these problems, not “God?” These people have suffered for so long and now this.

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Baghdad dust storm Karim Kadim / Associated Press Iraqis cover their faces during one of Baghdad’s increasingly frequent dust storms. Officials say decades of war and mismanagement, compounded by two years of drought, are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.
Now-frequent dust storms are just one sign of the man-made damage that has taken the country from Middle East breadbasket to dust bowl, they say. By Liz Sly
July 30, 2009 Reporting from Baghdad — You wake up in the morning to find your nostrils clogged. Houses and trees have vanished beneath a choking brown smog. A hot wind blasts fine particles through doors and windows, coating everything in sight and imparting an eerie orange glow.

Dust storms are a routine experience in Iraq, but lately they’ve become a whole lot more common.

“Now it seems we have dust storms nearly every day,” said Raed Hussein, 31, an antiques dealer who had to rush his 5-year-old son to a hospital during a recent squall because the boy couldn’t breathe. “We suffer from lack of electricity, we suffer from explosions, and now we are suffering even more because of this terrible dust.

“It must be a punishment from God,” he added, offering a view widely held among Iraqis seeking to explain their apocalyptic weather of late. “I think God is angry with the deeds of the Iraqi people.”

The reality is probably scarier. Iraq is in the throes of what some officials are calling an environmental catastrophe, and the increased frequency of dust storms is only the most visible manifestation.

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