From: Associated Press
Published October 26, 2004 12:00 AM

Donors Agree to Work Together on Plan to Restore Iraq's Marshlands

ROME — Donor countries and top Iraqi officials agreed Monday to coordinate their efforts to save the dried-up marshlands of southern Iraq, the Italian Environment Ministry said.

Representatives from Italy, the United States, Japan, Canada, and Britain; the World Bank; and the U.N. Environment Program discussed the environmental crisis with Iraqi government ministers at a two-day workshop in Venice.

They vowed to form one overarching international program out of smaller projects to save Iraq's wetlands, the Italian Environment Ministry said in a statement. The plan includes urgent measures to restore laboratories and train Iraqi personnel, the ministry said.

The program also will coordinate projects to check the quality of the region's water and air, set up national parks, conserve biodiversity, and restore contaminated sites.

Some scholars say the vast marshes were once home to the biblical Garden of Eden. But Saddam Hussein turned them into an arid salt bed.

Before he was ousted, the longtime leader drained much of the Mesopotamian waters between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by building dams, dikes, and canals after inhabitants supported a Shiite Muslim rebellion following the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Source: Associated Press

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