Baghdad, with a population of more than seven million, is one of the largest cities in the Arab world. Intersected by the Tigris river, it was once the center of the Islamic world, known for its elaborate gardens. But green space in the capital has contracted in the past two decades. Construction - legal and illegal - is accelerating in Baghdad amid a serious housing shortage and what Iraq's prime minister described as a flood of laundered money pouring into major real estate investments.

Many of Baghdad's orchards and gardens have been sacrificed to largely unregulated building over the past decade, reducing green spaces that have traditionally helped keep the capital livable as temperatures have increased in what is already one of the hottest cities in the world.

In a city where summer temperatures have reached as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit, dangerous heat and increased air pollution pose particular hazards for the poor, who have no access to air conditioning. Iraq, with its declining water levels, intensified droughts and rapidly increasing population, has been deemed one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. But, according to environmentalists, successive governments have essentially ignored the growing crisis.

On assignment for The New York Times 

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