"The Euphrates, once broad and endlessly green, is now narrow and drab. In parts it is a slick black ooze, fit only for scores of bathing water buffalo. Giant pumps lay metres out of reach. Some are rusting. "Not long ago, the level of the Euphrates was at this rust line," said Awda Khasaf, a local leader in the al-Akerya marshlands, as he pointed at the dwindling river.
"It has now dropped more than 1.5m. This river feeds all the agriculture lands and marsh lands in Nasiriyah. It smells like this because it is stagnant," he said. "We turned to agriculture in 1991 after Saddam's rampage, but now the government has ordered us to stop rice farming."