A marsh Arab woman doing her wash. Photo via Reuters/Mohammed Ameen
The return of water to Iraq's ancient marshlands, thought to be the home of the biblical Garden of Eden, was once seen as a bright spot amid the war-torn country's many tragedies. But drought is proving to be as merciless as any dictator.
The marsh area, an important wetland around 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, once extended for more than 15,000 square kilometers. It was dammed and drained by Saddam Hussein, who claimed the local residents, known as marsh Arabs, were sheltering rebel forces loyal to Iran. By 2000, only 10 percent of the marsh area remained intact. After the fall of Baghdad, many of the dams were destroyed, the marshlands attracted assistance from international environmental groups, and residents who had fled the area started to move back in.
Now drought has dried the marshes out once again, endangering a population dependent on fishing and farming. New agricultural irrigation in other parts of Iraq, and dams built in neighboring countries, are also affecting the water supply. The remote area is already a haven for smugglers, and officials fear a boost in crime.
"If the relevant authorities do not turn their attention to the marshes," a regional security official warned, "then of course anyone who doesn't have food or work will turn to other means to earn a living." Via: Drought threatens peace in Iraq's marsh Eden," Reuters
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