Restored Iraqi Marshlands threatened by drought

The
Iraqi Marshlands - the largest wetland ecosystem in the
Middle East are being threatened by a severe drought, intensive
dam construction and irrigation schemes in Iraq and surrounding
countries.

The marshes used to cover an area of up
to 15,000 square kilometers and secured the access to drinking
water, providing livelihoods for Marsh Arabs and habitats
for many migratory waterbirds.

However, in the 1990’s they were
almost destroyed by the former regime and reduced to barely
760 square kilometers. As from 2003 the marshlands had been
partially re-flooded and were able to recover to a remarkable
extent. Now they are back to 30% of their former size and
the situation could worsen if predictions of another year
of low rainfall prove to be correct.

"The 2007-2008 season was one of the
worst droughts on record, and snowfall in the catchments
feeding the Tigris and Euphrates has also been limited”,
said UNEP expert Hassan Partow.

But even if the levels of rain and snowfall
were above normal, the proliferation of dams and irrigation
schemes have choked off much of the supply and muted the
annual snowmelt floods. New dam and irrigations projects
in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran are threatening waterlevels
further downstream including those of the Iraqi Marshlands.

The protection and recovery of the Iraqi
Marshlands is dependent on sound water-sharing agreements
between all the countries involved and advanced management
plans for water use both upstream and in the marshes themselves.



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Last updated on 16 June 2014

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