Canadian Consulting Engineer

Heading back to Eden?

January 2, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Some good news amongst the bad reports from the Middle East to start off the New Year. Half of Iraq's fabled marshl...

Some good news amongst the bad reports from the Middle East to start off the New Year. Half of Iraq’s fabled marshlands of Mesopotamia, considered by some to be the original Garden of Eden, have regained their 1970s extent, thanks to a multi-million dollar program managed by the UN Environment Program. The marshes were decimated by a vast drainage operation ordered by Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Satellite images and analysis released by the UN Environment Program show that almost 50 per cent of the total area, one of the world’s largest wetland ecosystems, had been re-flooded with seasonal fluctuations, in sharp contrast to agency images in 2001 that revealed that 90 per cent of the Marshlands had already been lost.
Once totalling almost 9,000 square kilometres, the Marshlands dwindled to just 760 square kilometres in 2002 and experts feared they could disappear entirely by 2008.
As the regime fell in 2003, people began to open floodgates and break down the embankments that had been built to drain the Marshlands. Re-flooding has since occurred in some, but not all, areas. The rehabilitation project, “Support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshlands,” is funded by Japan.
The UN reported on December 7 that up to 22,000 people living in the area are now getting access to safe drinking water and 300 Iraqis have been trained in marshland management techniques and policies. The program aims eventually to provide clean water for up to 100,000 people.
By the middle of 2006, 23 kilometres of water distribution pipes and 86 common distribution taps had been installed. A sanitation system pilot project is being implemented in the community of Al-Chibayish where inhabitants are facing health hazards from discharges of untreated wastewater to a nearby canal.


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