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Work Continues to Restore Iraqi Marshlands


Guest James Sherrill
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Guest James Sherrill

The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources inherited what it calls one of the world's greatest environmental catastrophes from the former regime - the parched Mesopotamian marshes in southern Iraq.

 

"We are delighted with the interest shown by the local, national and international stakeholders in the restoration of the Iraqi marshlands." Dr. Latif Rashid, Iraqi Minister of Water Resources

 

Marsh Arabs have been living among the southern wetlands for thousands of years, making their homes from abundant reeds and mud. They sell the reeds, catch fish from long wooden boats and herd water-buffalo to sustain themselves.

 

Fed by the Tigres and Euphrates rivers, the giant wetlands once stretched for more than 6,200 square-miles.

 

When Saddam Hussein seized power in the early 1970s, he began ordering small sections of the wetland drained to make room for military factories, chemical plants and other industry.

 

The ancient marshes fell victim to the regime once again during the Iran-Iraq war, beginning in 1980, and were drained even further because of the land's perceived tactical value.

 

Restoration of Iraq Marshlands, under the supervision of the Ministry of Water Resources. The center is the lead organization for restoring the marshlands.

 

Ali Hashim Katie, the director of the center, said the marshes are already at about 40 percent of pre-1991 levels.

 

“The process of restoring the marshlands will cost more than the drying process. … We need to develop better irrigation techniques and work with neighboring countries,” he said.

 

Katie said that since much of the water for the marshes originates in Syria and Turkey, his group is working with those countries to allow more water-flow into Iraq.

 

Dr. Latif Rashid, Minister of Water Resources, said the center is working with other Iraqi ministries and nongovernmental organizations on a five-year plan to restore the marshes to 75 percent of pre-1991 levels.

 

“We are delighted with the interest shown by the local, national and international stakeholders in the restoration of the Iraqi marshlands,” he said.

 

As the marshes begin to fill with water again, the displaced people are beginning to move back to their ancient homeland and way of life.

 

“We're grateful to the people who are helping us,” said Abdul Dakhel, a Marsh Arab who lives in a tiny village north of Basra.

 

“If the new government can make Iraq a stable country, then that is what will make my family happy.”

 

The biggest impact on the marshes came at the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991. Hussein gave the order to drain the marshes completely in retribution for the Shia uprising against the regime. The huge cost of draining the marshes put a burden on Iraq's economy, and the environmental impact on the marshes' eco-system was disastrous. Certain types of birds, fish and plants normally found in the marshes rapidly disappeared.

 

By 1996, the marshes were reduced to less than 10 percent of their pre-1991 size. More than 100,000 people who depended on the marshes to live were forced to relocate, and many migrated to neighboring Iran where a portion of the marshes were still intact.

 

“The (Iraqi) parliament knows the damage the previous regime caused to the environment,” said Salima Inseel, head of the marshland department of the Ministry of Environment. She said the receded marshes, along with pollution from factories in the area, have led to unseasonably warmer temperatures in Iraq.

 

In 2003, immediately following Iraq's liberation by coalition forces, the interim government set up the Center for the

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Guest human_*

Good article there. I didn't know that iraq has marsh lands.

 

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The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources inherited what it calls one of the world's greatest environmental catastrophes from the former regime - the parched Mesopotamian marshes in southern Iraq.

Marsh Arabs have been living among the southern wetlands for thousands of years, making their homes from abundant reeds and mud. They sell the reeds, catch fish from long wooden boats and herd water-buffalo to sustain themselves.

 

Fed by the Tigres and Euphrates rivers, the giant wetlands once stretched for more than 6,200 square-miles.

 

When Saddam Hussein seized power in the early 1970s, he began ordering small sections of the wetland drained to make room for military factories, chemical plants and other industry.

 

The ancient marshes fell victim to the regime once again during the Iran-Iraq war, beginning in 1980, and were drained even further because of the land's perceived tactical value.

 

Restoration of Iraq Marshlands, under the supervision of the Ministry of Water Resources. The center is the lead organization for restoring the marshlands.

 

Ali Hashim Katie, the director of the center, said the marshes are already at about 40 percent of pre-1991 levels.

 

“The process of restoring the marshlands will cost more than the drying process. … We need to develop better irrigation techniques and work with neighboring countries,” he said.

 

Katie said that since much of the water for the marshes originates in Syria and Turkey, his group is working with those countries to allow more water-flow into Iraq.

 

Dr. Latif Rashid, Minister of Water Resources, said the center is working with other Iraqi ministries and nongovernmental organizations on a five-year plan to restore the marshes to 75 percent of pre-1991 levels.

 

“We are delighted with the interest shown by the local, national and international stakeholders in the restoration of the Iraqi marshlands,” he said.

 

As the marshes begin to fill with water again, the displaced people are beginning to move back to their ancient homeland and way of life.

 

“We're grateful to the people who are helping us,” said Abdul Dakhel, a Marsh Arab who lives in a tiny village north of Basra.

 

“If the new government can make Iraq a stable country, then that is what will make my family happy.”

 

The biggest impact on the marshes came at the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991. Hussein gave the order to drain the marshes completely in retribution for the Shia uprising against the regime. The huge cost of draining the marshes put a burden on Iraq's economy, and the environmental impact on the marshes' eco-system was disastrous. Certain types of birds, fish and plants normally found in the marshes rapidly disappeared.

 

By 1996, the marshes were reduced to less than 10 percent of their pre-1991 size. More than 100,000 people who depended on the marshes to live were forced to relocate, and many migrated to neighboring Iran where a portion of the marshes were still intact.

 

“The (Iraqi) parliament knows the damage the previous regime caused to the environment,” said Salima Inseel, head of the marshland department of the Ministry of Environment. She said the receded marshes, along with pollution from factories in the area, have led to unseasonably warmer temperatures in Iraq.

 

In 2003, immediately following Iraq's liberation by coalition forces, the interim government set up the Center for the

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