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Environment Feature

Iraq - The Fertile Crescent

Whichever 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 environmental disasters.
Ninety per cent of the Mesopotamian marshlands, known historically as the Fertile Crescent, have been lost as a result of drainage and damming.
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.
British 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 indigenous people.

(article from Looking-Glass Global News)


Looking-Glass Comment

In 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 countries.

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