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- The Fertile Crescent
way Iraq finally settles towards a new-found peaceful existence,
it is hoped that urgent attention is taken to restore a huge area
of land that has been subject to one of the world's worst and deliberate
Ninety per cent of the Mesopotamian marshlands, known historically
as the Fertile Crescent, have been lost as a result of drainage
By referring to recently released satellite images, a study by scientists
at the United Nations Environment Programme, recently collected
damming evidence detailing the true extent of damage to this important
habitat for people and wildlife. Comparable with the Aral Sea disaster,
this activity, under the rule of Saddam Hussein had been largely
hidden from the rest of the world. Iraq has deliberately hindered
monitoring of events in the area, and a result, this major ecological
disaster has gone virtually unreported until now.
Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey have being urged by UNEP to agree a
plan to stop further destruction. All four countries are responsible
for the marshlands via the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, which are
amongst the most intensively dammed rivers in the world. These dams
have substantially reduced the water available for downstream ecosystems
and eliminated the floodwaters that nourished the marshlands. The
immediate cause of loss of marshland is however the massive drainage
works implemented in southern Iraq in the early 1990s following
the last Gulf War.
The impact of marshland loss has significant implications for global
biodiversity, including migratory birds and mammals, some of which
have already become extinct.
The collapse of the Marsh Arab society, a distinct indigenous people
that has inhabited the marshlands for millennia, adds a human dimension
to this environmental disaster. Saddam's regime drained the marshes
as a tool of oppression and is said to have killed around 20% of
the Marsh Arabs. Much of the remaining 80% were forced to flee the
area and into makeshift shacks.
Euro MP Baroness Emma Nicholson, who is trying to put together a
war crimes case against the ousted Iraqi leadership, is urging the
British and American army to undo the damage. The surviving Marsh
Arab clan leaders want the marshes re-flooded, providing that there
is effort to restore the high points of the lands where families
can re-build their mudhifs, family homes which are round-roofed
halls made of woven reeds. Once, when the marshlands were in their
prime, the Marsh Arabs lived in perfect harmony with their land.
Time is running short as any remaining fertility in the drained
land is fast becoming salinated and thereafter nothing will ever
be able to grow there again. It is vital that the dams and canals
are removed so that the Mesopotamian marshlands have the chance
to regenerate and in turn re-home a peaceful and historicaly important
post war Iraq, coalition forces or western busines opportunists
have shown no environmental initiative when resolving the supply
of electricity to Iraqi communities.
They have used poluting fossil fuel powered systems to provide electricity
instead of realizing this unique opportunity to establish both solar
and wind power as Iraq's primary new energy source.
A golden opportunity wasted.
Iraq could not only have been rebuilt free of a suppressing regime,
but also as an ecological / environmental template to inspire other
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