Mesopotamia's 'Fertile Crescent' may disappear this century

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London, July 28 (ANI): Climate modellers are warning that the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Near East, incorporating the Levant and Mesopotamia, may disappear in this century, with the current drought likely to become permanent.

According to a report in New Scientist, the death knell for the Fertile Crescent has been rung as Turkish dams reduce the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to a trickle, farmers abandon their desiccated fields across Iraq and Syria, and efforts to revive the Mesopotamian marshes appear to be abandoned.

In ancient times, the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers through Iraq were bountiful - irrigating fields that sustained civilizations like Sumeria and cities like Babylon.

But, the combination of drought, dams and Iraq's own desire to revive its agriculture is placing huge pressure on the last remnant of that bounty, the Mesopotamian marshes, which form where the Tigris and Euphrates meet and flow to the sea.

The marshes were deliberately drained by Saddam Hussein. But after 2003, there was an international effort to revive them.

The UN Environment Programme reported on progress until 2006, when the Iraqi water ministry took over monitoring.

As concerns grew that the Iraqi government was once again diverting scarce water away from the marshes to maintain agriculture, reporting abruptly stopped.

"The marshes are getting smaller," said Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American campaigner for their revival.

Drought has helped precipitate the crisis. The most detailed assessment of the Fertile Crescent's future under climate change suggests flow on the Euphrates could fall by 73 per cent.

"The ancient Fertile Crescent will disappear in this century," forecasts Akio Kitoh of Japan's Meteorological Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan.

"The process has already begun," he added. (ANI)

|Ashes: Hilfenhaus has come a long way from building houses in Tasmania|Sports[Birmingham (UK){Birmingham (UK), July 28 (ANI): This year's Ashes series in England has thrown up one Australian dark horse - Ben Hilfenhaus.

A carpenter by profession with a love for the game of cricket, Hilfenhaus has come a long way from building houses in Hobart, Tasmania.

Hilfenhaus's stamina and physique were hardened on Hobart building sites. As a cricketer, he bowls stump-to-stump out swing without even thinking about it and after arriving in Britain as the fifth and most anonymous fast bowler in line for the Ashes, is tied with another surprise packet, Nathan Hauritz, as the leading wicket-taker for the series, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

In light of the injury to Brett Lee and the wayward form of Mitchell Johnson, the selectors who two years ago earmarked Hilfenhaus as a prospective Ashes tourist will be counting their blessings for the former labourer from the north-west coast of Tasmania.

He is quicker than Alderman, who famously took 83 wickets in two Ashes series in England in the 1980s, and has proved to be the biggest handful for England's batsmen with his regular swing. He made the England captain look foolish, tricking him into a leave and taking his off stump on the second morning at Lord's, and has nine wickets at 31 for the series with the best economy rate of the Australian quicks.

''There was a bit of uncertainty about my position in the team so to get a game, I'm very happy with that. At the moment, I feel like the ball is coming out well enough, and I'm enjoying every moment of it,'' Hilfenhaus said.

Hilfenhaus dislikes talking about himself.

The 26-year-old's bowling action has always produced natural out swing, and he doesn't need all the planets to be in alignment to make it happen.

''It's something that just comes out,'' he said.

Before announcing himself as a pace man on the rise with 60 Sheffield Shield wickets in his second season for Tasmania, Hilfenhaus used his lunch breaks to expand his repertoire. He made his Test debut in the new generation attack that triumphed in South Africa but has come of age on his first Ashes tour.

Damien Fleming, the former Australian swing bowler, says he has worked with Hilfenhaus and says he works really hard.

''I went down to Hobart for Pace Australia a few years ago. I think he got dropped off contract for Tassie and he was a brickie's labourer, and he came down at lunchtime to work on his inswinger,'' Fleming recalled.

''He was working, still playing footy and he was tired but he came down for that hour to work on a delivery. That says a lot, that he's made it happen himself. He's done it the hard way just through pure wickets. There is a lot to admire about that, and there's obviously a steel about him as well," he added. (ANI)

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