- Title: IRAQ: Iraqi marshlands no longer 'Garden of Eden'
- Date: 27th January 2009
- Summary: WOMAN WASHING CLOTHES WITH WATER OF THE MARSHLANDS WOMAN BAKING BREAD MORE OF WOMAN BAKING BREAD IN CLAY OVEN WOMAN MAKING MATS OF REEDS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) WALEED AL-IBADI, NASIRIYA MARSHLANDS RESIDENT, SAYING: "The meagre services offered do not cover all the Marshland inhabitants, who actually need services more than urban populations do. For example we need dams to retain water to make water abundant, allowing us to make a living. People have started to migrate to the city." DRY AND DESERTED LANDS BROKEN CANOE/ DRY LAND DRY PLANTS HUTS MADE OF REEDS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HUSSEIN ALI, NASIRIYA MARSHLANDS RESIDENT, SAYING: "Water was available in this area before but now it has turned into a desert. Water which used to cover the area stretching from here to the city of Amara is no more, thus forcing people to migrate to the city because of deteriorating living conditions." VARIOUS OF MAN WEAVING HUTS OF BREED MEN NEAR CANOES CANOES IN MARSHLANDS VARIOUS OF MEN LOADING HAY INTO CANOES
- Embargoed: 11th February 2009 12:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Social Services / Welfare
- Reuters ID: LVAA0ILY3GXPQZ3UAJNTTWLQVRJE
- Story Text: Life for Marsh Arabs is proving more and more difficult due to deteriorating living conditions and lack of basic services as they try to hold their community together in Iraq's ancient Marshlands.
But chances of preserving the culture of these people, who have lived for 5,000 years in a location considered by some to be the Biblical Garden of Eden, are looking slim.
The inhabitants of Nasiriya, the capital of Dhi Qar province about 400 kilometres south of Baghdad, say they are experiencing hardship due to acute drought, lack of clean drinking water and poor electricity.
"Living conditions of the inhabitants of the Marshlands, who depend on fishing and animal breeding, have deteriorated. There is no more water, the water is very shallow. Water is now flowing from the marshes into the Euphrates River and from there it flows into the Shatt-al-Arab because there are no dams that retain water flow and keep it in the marshes. There is no electricity, no healthcare. Disease has spread among animals because of the lack of veterinary services. As for the fish, there is no water to live in," cattleman Waleed al-Ibadi told Reuters.
Marsh Arabs traditionally live off fishing, raising water buffalo and cultivating crops such as rice, barley and wheat. They move from village to village, some of which are floating, in wooden canoes which they also use for fishing.
In addition to water scarcity, the little water they do have is also being polluted, causing the spread of an unknown disease which has led to the deaths of dozens of cows and buffaloes.
With their livelihoods at stake, many feel compelled to find work elsewhere.
Ibadi claims government neglect has compounded problems and is fuelling the exodus.
"The meagre services offered do not cover all the Marshland inhabitants, who actually need services more than urban populations do. For example we need dams to retain water to make water abundant, allowing us to make a living. People have started to migrate to the city," he said.
Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Marshlands are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to rare bird species like the Sacred Ibis.
They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa.
The Marsh Arabs have lived there for thousands of years but Saddam accused them of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran and ordered their homeland to be dammed and drained.
By 2003, when Saddam was toppled, the area covered by the Marshlands had fallen to around 2,000 square kilometres, one-tenth of their size in the early 1970s.
After Saddam's downfall locals wrecked many of the dams to let the water rush back in and a 14 million USD UN Environment Program (UNEP) restoration project prompted the return of thousands of birds and fish.
That included providing safe drinking water to residents, planting reeds to filter pollution and sewage, and the introduction of renewable energy schemes like solar power.
But the recovery was far from complete and inhabitants worry the current level of damage may be irreversible.
"Water was available in this area before but now it has turned into a desert. Water which used to cover the area stretching from here to the city of Amara is no more," resident Hussein Ali said...
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