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Morocco. Drought destroys centuries-old oases in the heart of the desert

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A severe drought has affected many regions of Morocco. Among the ecosystems that suffer especially from lack of rain are desert oases. These vast green areas have been the backbone of nomadic and sedentary communities for hundreds of years, but now they face extinction.

Oases have played an important role among the communities inhabiting the desert regions of the world for thousands of years. Long strips of lush greenery in the middle of the desert used to be the hallmark of the Moroccan countryside, but for several years the country has been struggling with a tragic drought posing a threat to this valuable, unique ecosystem.

Dry oases

As satellite images taken in 2017 and 2023 show, the extent of oases around the city of Tinghir (marked here in red) has significantly decreased in recent years. Extremely low rainfall means that the lush vegetation begins to thin out, and the green palm groves become barren and dry.

Morocco’s oases are dying of droughtEuropean Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2

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Moroccan oases have accompanied local communities for many hundreds of years. The nomads, who rely on the oases as pastures for their sheep and goats, cannot provide food for the animals. The drought also affects the settled population engaged in agricultural activities in the oases. Many wells have dried up completely, and desperate people are trying to dig themselves into the aquifer, making the situation worse.

Praying for rain

November is usually a cold and wet month in Morocco, but in 2022 it turned out to be exceptionally dry. When the rain did not come, King Muhammad VI called on the faithful to pray for rain across the country. The country’s religious leader then declared that the drought was a man-made disaster and that the rains would come when people atone for their sins and the way they “treated the planet”.

Tinghir, Morocco. The oases surrounding the city are slowly disappearing406067781/Adobe Stock

EU Copernicus, Al-Jazeera, AP, tvnmeteo.pl

Main photo source: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2

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