Venom has now joined violence on Iraq’s danger list.

As the country’s waterways run dry, snakes are moving into human territory, The Independent reported yesterday. Poisonous reptiles—including the saw-scaled viper, desert horned viper and desert cobra—are attacking humans and livestock in southern Iraq at an unprecedented rate.

Snakes that thrived in moist marshes in the country are now fleeing their parched habitats for nearby towns. Six people have been killed and 13 poisoned, along with the losses of countless cows. "I will leave the region if this continues," Jabbar Salleh, a farmer in the southern province of Nasiriyah, told the AFP earlier this month.

Iraqi officials accuse Turkey of blocking water from crossing the border with a series of dams built over the last 30 years. The flow of both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers has slowed substantially—the Euphrates carrying about a quarter of what it did less than a decade ago.

Iraq’s water reserves at the beginning of May were 11 billion cubic meters (385 billion cubic feet). Just three years ago, reserves held 40 billion cubic meters of water. Less rain, coupled with more water diversions for irrigation, is also to blame for increased water pollution and a decrease in agricultural production.

Iraq is pleading with its upstream neighbors—Turkey, Syria and Iran—to let more water flow southward. As The Independent put it, “the result of Iraq being starved of water may be one of the world's greatest natural disasters, akin to the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.”

Photo by eROMAZe via iStockPhoto.