Scientists consider restoring Iraqi marshland

02 May 2003
A team of US scientists is soon to travel to southern Iraq to decide whether the former marshlands at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers should be flooded, the Washington Post reported on 28 April. The marshlands were once home to a rare wetland ecological system and to the Marsh Arabs, who were forced off the land by Saddam Hussein's drainage of the land. Decline began in the 1950s as a result of damming activity by Turkey and Syria, but greatly accelerated in the 1990s as the Baghdad regime built canals and drained the land. About 95 per cent of the marshland was turned to wasteland and the Marsh Arab population fell from more than 250,000 to some 40,000. The scientists will examine which parts of the marshland would be most easily recoverable and measure contamination. The main sticking point, say scientists speaking to the Washington Post, is the regional shortage of water and the competing claims of nearby farmers and oilmen, and of Syria and Turkey. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is planning a conference of interested parties in late May.

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