“Fifteen years after the former Iraqi government used old blueprints dating from the British Empire to drain a vast wetland, the area is slowly creeping back to life.

For millennia, the Mesopotamian Marshlands were an isolated and swampy oasis in the desert, covering more than 20,000 square km of interconnected lakes, mudflats and bayous. Some believe it is where the biblical Eden was located.

The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), which first alerted the world via satellite images that the marshes were vanishing, is playing an active role in capacity-building and promoting sustainable development in the area.

The agency created the Marshland Information Network, comprising the Marshland Arabs Forum, various government ministries and the U.S.-based Iraq Foundation, which runs the Eden Again Project.

“We’re targeting smaller communities with projects for drinking water, sanitation and water quality management,” said Chizuru Aoki of UNEP. “The goal is to support environmentally sustainable technologies.” Read more

For background on this story read The Demise of Mesopotamian Marshlands, UN Chronicle 2002

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