9:06 PM

Iraq Marshland Rebounds.....Thanks to the UN??

Posted by Skye |

TOKYO - Ancient marshlands in southeastern Iraq drained by Saddam Hussein have rebounded to nearly half their former area, and progress should continue despite turmoil currently rocking the nation, UN officials said on Thursday.

The marshlands, believed by some to be the location of the biblical Garden of Eden, once totalled an area nearly the size of Wales and provided a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa.

"Good news out of Iraq is not very common these days," said Robert Bisset, press officer for the United Nations Environment Programme, at a news conference announcing the results of the first phase of a marshlands restoration project funded by Japan.

"Everything isn't perfect in the marshlands, but there are some very positive stories," he added.

The marshes were the homeland of Iraq's Marsh Arab people, who had inhabited the marshlands at the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers for thousands of years.

Saddam, though, accused the Marsh Arabs of desertion and fighting against his forces during the 1980-1988 war with Iran and of harbouring criminals and dissenters, and he ordered the area to be dammed and drained.

By 2003, when Saddam was toppled, the area covered by the marshlands had fallen to around 2,000 square kilometres, one-tenth of their size in the early 1970s. After Saddam's downfall, local residents destroyed many of the dams, freeing the water. Their efforts were supplemented by the UN-led restoration project, which has enabled the marshes to rebound to nearly half their former area and prompted the return of thousands of birds and fish.

The area's former human residents have also begun to return, but widespread relocation remains difficult because the marsh water has become more salty than it was before the destruction, leading to a lack of clean drinking water.
Further restoration efforts will continue, however, and are unlikely to be derailed by the security woes that beset much of Iraq, said Tuama al-Helou, Iraq's deputy environment minister.

"It's true we're living a very difficult situation, the security situation in Iraq," he said. "But the security situation is not bad in all parts of Iraq. In the southern area, we can say it is a very good security situation there."

A second phase of the UN-led project began earlier this year and is being funded by Japan and Italy.

The UN is working to restore the Iraqi marshlands? I love a good dose of poetic justice - this is the same organization that was complicit in enabling saddam to run rough-shod over Iraq for decades. Now in the above article, the UN is working to unravel the damage it helped create and admitting Iraq is not quite the quagmire as reported by media outlets worldwide. Poetic justice, indeed.

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