Restoration of Mesopotamian Marshlands

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Ghadiri, Hossein
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Steven K. Starrett, Jihua Hong, William G. Lyon

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2006
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63985 bytes

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Houston, Texas

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Abstract

The marshlands of southern Iraq, which until recently were the largest in the Middle East, comprise of a complex system of permanently inundated regions with tall reeds, seasonal marshes, shallow and deep lakes, seasonal lagoons, and regularly inundated mudflats. Millions of migratory birds use these marshes as a way-station on their flights between Africa and northern Europe. The previous Iraqi government diverted the two large rivers of Tigris and Euphrates away from these marshlands and almost completely destroyed them. Only a small section of one of the three marshes was kept alive by the continuing flow of a small Iranian river. Following the 2003 regime change in Iraq their restoration was put on the new government's agenda. Studies, however, suggest that at best only a partial restoration of these marshlands is possible. The main obstacle to their successful restoration is the lack of sufficient water. All three rivers that feed the marshlands originate from neighboring countries, and all of these countries have extensive plans for dam building and expansion of their irrigated agriculture. There are also other major economic, social, cultural, ecological and political problems with the restoration efforts which are discussed in this paper together with possible solutions.

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Environmental Science and Technology 2006

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© 2006 American Science Press and the ICEST. This paper is reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.

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