Friday, December 08, 2006

Nearly Half of Iraqi Marshlands Restored

An ongoing story.

To destroy the Iraqi Marsh Arabs, Saddam just eliminated the marshes. He succeeded. It's amazing that we can restore the marshes, but he killed off the Marsh Arab culture as surely as Hitler destroyed Eastern European Jewry.

On the other hand, restoring the marshes is something. Their destruction was one of the biggest ecological catastrophes of the 20th century.

I've blogged about this before.

It is the height of irony that the United Nations, who brought us perhaps the largest bribery scandal of the 20th century, UNSCAM, is trying to take credit for an effort when their chief contribution was to help make it necessary.

This behavior is a familiar pattern, which we also saw in the Indonesian tsunami rescue efforts.

The bulk of the work has been by the Army Corps of Engineers, beginning immediately after the liberation, in 2003, under orders directly from the President of the United States. The bulk of the funding has been from the US, principally USAID.

Here's a example summary of what the Army was faced with:

Located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshes were once among the world's largest wetlands. Within this 8,000-square-miles area, the 5,000-year-old culture of the Madan, or Marsh Arabs, developed the first alphabet.

Before their destruction, the Mesopotamian Marshlands spanned an area roughly twice the size of the Florida Everglades. They were known for their biodiversity and cultural richness. The marshes were home to millions of birds, fish spawning and nursery areas and various agricultural crops. The devastation seen under the hand of the former regime has been compared to the deforestation of the Amazon.

After putting down a rebellion by the Marsh Arabs at the end of the Gulf War, the Iraqi government set its full wrath upon the group, burning towns, killing livestock and making the drainage of the marshlands a top priority. An estimated 150,000 people were displaced during this time; some were forced to relocate as many as 18 times.

By 1999, the marshlands had been reduced to 7 percent of their original state. Many endemic species were lost, a natural filter system for waste and pollutants into rivers and the Persian Gulf was devastated, and an entire culture rich in history was destroyed. The area was in dire need of structure and rebuilding efforts.

More on the amazing accomplishments of our efforts can be found, for example, here and here and here.

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