June 27, 2006

Iraqi Marsh 60% Restored

Hatched by Sachi

We have been following the progress of the Iraqi Great Salt Marsh, which was systematically drained in the early 1990s by Saddam Hussein as punishment for the Shiite rebellion shortly after the Gulf War. We talked about it before in Swamp Samurai and Swamp Samurai On the Marsh.

Iraq Great Salt Marsh: 1985 to 2000

Shrinkage of the Iraq Marsh: 1985 area (red) to 2000 area (blue)

BBC News, the only elite news source following up on this issue, has an update. According to Abdul Latif Rashid, Iraq's minister for water resources, 60% of the area has been restored. BBC reporters have overflown the area, and this is what they saw:

There were fisherman easing their narrow boats along reedbeds.

In places, we saw traditional marsh Arab villages, floating on thick mats of reeds, water buffalo wallowing alongside.

It sounds pretty good. But here comes "the big but": BBC continues: "the reality for the Marsh Arabs of today is not quite as romantic. Although the water is coming back, they have little else."

Of course, this is the antique media after all; they can't talk about good news without "balancing it" with a leavening of bad:

The government says it has now allocated millions of dollars for the marsh region - aimed at giving people "better services, education, health care and communications", says Mr Rashid, the minister.

But Kamel Mezher and other villagers say they have seen none of these funds....

[T]here are complaints [substantiated? the Beeb doesn't say] that some of the money set aside for marshland development has been misused.

When we are dealing with a country like Iraq, we must face the reality that their local politicians, civil servants, and ordinary Achmeds and Mohammeds are corrupt and incompetent. We shouldn't imagine that everything will run smoothly; it's a miracle when it runs at all!

Violence between small tribes, a lack of developmental planning, and misuse of funds hover always in peripheral vision, waiting to rise up and engulf any good project. For example, how does Iraq balance the needs of real people with the "needs" of nature?

Mr Rashid says some areas could be declared as a national park, to protect the unique wildlife....

He also talks of plans to allow small scale industry in some areas, to provide jobs. He denies there would be a conflict between "environment and development".

Despite the problems, I am encouraged by the progress. If they're to the point of arguing about preserving the environment versus developing the land, that is definitely good news indeed.

Marsh Arabs    Marsh Dwellings

Arab fisherman on the Great Salt Marsh (L); typical Marsh-Arab village (R).

And that's still a pretty picture, too.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 27, 2006, at the time of 11:34 PM

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Once upon a time environmentalists were sadly suggesting that the Iraqi wetlands, deliberately destroyed by Saddam Hussein, would ever come back. Big Lizard reports that they are quickly re-flourishing after the ouster of Hussein, although, as Sachi ... [Read More]

Tracked on June 28, 2006 11:15 AM


The following hissed in response by: Terrye

Well they may not have much but it is more than they had before.

The above hissed in response by: Terrye [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 28, 2006 3:44 AM

The following hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive

Fancy the New York Times making a headline on this development, over a nice big photo. It's real news.

Oh, dang, not defeatist enough.

To see what Saddam nearly succeeded in destroying, find Wilfred Thesiger's book 'The Marsh Arabs' (Penguin Books), written just before the Baathists began their murderous career.

The above hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 28, 2006 6:42 AM

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