From: Arwa Aburawa, Green Prophet
Published March 5, 2011 08:15 AM

Iraq's Mesopotamian Marshlands recovering

The Iraqi Marshlands, which were pushed to the brink of extinction under the Saddam era, are slowly being restored to their former glory

For over 7,000 years the Iraqi Marshland- also known as the Mesopotamian Marshlands- played an important role in global ecosystems by supporting rare wildlife and rich biodiversity. Located in south Iraq, the marshlands stretched to over 6,000 square miles and are believed by many to be the location of the Garden of Eden. In the 1980's, however, Saddam drained the marshland to punish the Marsh Arabs who rebelled against him and turned their green lush wetlands into dusty deserts.


Following the 2003 war in Iraq which had its own destructive impact on the environment, a unique opportunity emerged to restore the marshlands in what has since been dubbed as "the largest habitat restoration project in the world".

At its peak the Iraqi Marshlands were considered to be the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East but after the devastating draining projects under Saddam, the Marshland shrunk to just 10 percent of its original size. The Marsh Arab population dropped from around quarter of a million to just a few thousand.

One Iraqi who had fled the country under Saddam returned to find that the wetlands he knew as a child had been destroyed beyond recognition. Azzam Alwash, decided to change this and set up Nature Iraq to help re-flood and so restore the marshlands.

Water which was diverted away from the Iraqi Marshlands under Saddam were re-routed to the marshlands which has seen the return of reeds on the embankments, bird-life and fishes. Birds such as the pied Kingfisher, the great white Pelican, the Basra Reed Warbler and the Greater Flamingo can now been seen flying across the marshlands.

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