|Wednesday What's New: Mesopotamian Wetlands|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 12 January 2011|
After being drained in the 1990s, the largest wetlands in the Middle East, the Mesopotanium wetlands located in Iraq have begun to be restored and several projects have been completed. The multi-billion-dollar restoration encompassing 40,000 square miles is being funded by the US, Canadian and Italian governments and the United Nations environment programme (UNEP). The wetlands were drained during the Iraq-Iran war of the 1990s.
Dubbed the Garden of Eden, the wetlands were once home to the smooth-coated otter, Mesopotamian deer, Basra reed warbler, and other wildlife. They have now been reduced to barren salt pans. The wetlands are also populated by an ancient people, the Marsh Arabs (Ma'dan) considered the heirs of the Babylonians and Sumerians. After the wetlands were drained, many of them moved to nearby cities and have become accustomed to the conveniences of modern day life—wireless internet and all. The restoration plan will integrate "green technologies and traditional environmental knowledge."
After Saddam Hussein, who had ordered the wetlands drained during the war, was deposed, the Marsh Arabs began to take matters into their own hands, knocking down dams and blocking drainage canals. As a result, approximately one-fifth of the marsh has been flooded and officials hope that at least 80% of the Mesopotanium wetlands will be eventually restored.
More information: Nature Iraq