The major sources of environmental damage are effluents from oil refineries, factory and sewage discharges into rivers, fertilizer and chemical contamination of the soil, and industrial air pollution in urban areas. An estimated 1% of agricultural land is lost each year through soil erosion and salinization.
The government has not developed a comprehensive environmental conservation policy, but it has initiated programs to prevent water pollution, to reclaim land by reducing soil salinity, and to protect wildlife by limiting hunting. As a result of damage from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, water pollution has increased. Purification systems for water and sewage are inadequate. Toxic chemicals from damaged oil facilities contribute to water pollution. Iraq has 35.2 cubic kilometers of renewable water resources with 92% used in farming activity. Only 48% of those living in rural areas have access to safe drinking water.
Iraq ranks among the 50 nations with the world's highest levels of industrial carbon dioxide emissions. Its 1992 emissions totaled 64.5 million metric tons, a per capita level of 3.33 metric tons. In 1996, the total rose to 91 million metric tons. The nation's cities produce on average 6 million tons of solid waste per year.
The Supreme Council for the Human Environment is the principal environmental agency; its implementing body, the Directorate General for the Human Environment, was established in 1975 and is attached to the Ministry of Health. As of 2001, 7 of Iraq's mammal species and 12 of its bird species are endangered. Endangered species include the northern bald Ibis, Persian fallow deer, Sa'udi Arabian dorcas gazelle, and Asiatic cheetah. The Syrian wild ass has become extinct.