Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Persian Gulf Environment III
UNEP described
The Destruction of Iraqi Marshlands
One of the Worst Environmental Disasters in History,

ranking it with the desiccation of the Aral Sea
and the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforests.

A report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2001 alerted the world that
only about 7 percent of the once-extensive Iraqi marshlands remained.

Training for Iraq's wetland managers

Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative

Satellite evidence showed the wetland complex UNEP called
"a biodiversity center of global importance,"
that had once covered an area of 5,800 to 7,700 square miles (15,000 to 20,000 square kilometers), had shrunk to a 386-square-mile (1,000-square-kilometer) marsh straddling the Iran-Iraq border.

UNEP described it as one of the worst environmental disasters in history, ranking it with the desiccation of the Aral Sea and the deforestation of the Amazon rainforests. The marshlands are a breeding ground and stop-over point for migratory birds. The environmental degradation put an estimated 40 species of birds and untold species of fish at risk, and led to the extinction of at least seven species. Two other species—the Sacred Ibis and African Darter—are near extinction.

Destruction of the wetlands was also devastating to agriculture and water quality, and many of the Marsh Arabs were forced to move to Iran or became internally displaced people in Iraq. In the long term, the drying of the marshes could contribute to climate change in the region.

Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative

Training for Iraq's wetland managers

Iraq is not yet a Ramsar Convention Contracting Party but its Government has indicated strong interest in accession in the near future.

The first Iraqi National Marshland Managers Training Course was held June 26-July 6, 2005 in the city of Basrah, Iraq -- designed as the first in a series of annual courses, this year's edition covered 12 days including a field trip to the Central Marsh.

The course was exclusively for Iraqis, and is presented in Arabic. A course manual was published, and will be updated and added to in future courses (see

Iraq partners include the Iraq Foundation, Nature Iraq, the University of Basrah, and government ministries. Assistance for the development of this new national course was provided by the University of Waterloo in Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency, and Environment Canada.

It included 30 participants nominated by their institutions, including middle managers and graduate students. They represent a cross-section of the institutions engaged in the study and management of the marshes of Iraq.

Participants included six from the Iraq Ministry of the Environment, six from the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources, three from Thi Qar University, two from Babylon University, one from the University of Technology, one from Kufa University, and five from the Faculty of Science, five from the Marine Science Center, two from the Faculty of Agriculture, and one from Faculty of Education - all at Basrah University.

Lecturers in this course included 17 of Iraq's top university scientists in their respective fields. The lectures provided a cross-section of information on the ecology, biology, management and importance of the southern marshlands of Iraq.

The lectures included: Geographical Setting, Geochemistry and Sedimentology, Hydrology, Marsh Destruction and Impacts, Wetland Ecosystems, Aquatic Plants, Phytoplankton and Primary Productivity, Zooplankton and Secondary Production, Insects, Benthic Fauna, Fish, Socio-Economic Values, Mammals, Birds, Water Quality and Pollution, and Restoration Efforts.

Japan Helps the marshlands
National Geography
Reviving Eden

Canada Iraq Marshlands Initiative
People of the Marshlands