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 May 2003: Water Returns to the Desiccated Mesopotamian Marshlands
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 13 August 2001: Press Release
 18 May 2001: UNEP Study Sounds Alarm About the Disappearance of the Mesopotamian Marshlands
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Experts urge international cooperation on rehabilitating Mesopotamian Marshlands

Geneva, 28 May 2003 – A meeting of some 50 experts hosted here by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has concluded that the social and environmental fabric of Iraq’s Mesopotamian Marshlands has been so extensively damaged that interested governments and organizations will need to collaborate if they are to help Iraqis ensure a successful revival.

Last Friday’s meeting (23 May) gathered together scientists, aid and development officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations to share ideas and information on the Marshland’s problems and their possible solutions.

Participants included representatives of Assistance for Marsh Arabs and Refugees Intl., BirdLife International, the Eden Again Project, the Iraq Foundation, IUCN (The World Conservation Union), the Royal Holloway Institute, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, UNEP, the World Health Organization, DHI Water and Environment (Denmark) and the US Agency for International Development.

The experts welcomed UNEP’s offer to establish an Internet database on issues and projects related to the Marshlands and to organize a second roundtable discussion later this year.

The Mesopotamian Marshlands have been devastated in recent years by declining water flow and by the Iraqi government’s policy of systematically draining the marshlands during the 1990s. Some 100,000 – 200,000 so-called Marsh Arabs are still thought to live in the region.

New satellite images analysed by UNEP, however, now reveal streams nourishing the marshlands back to life and drainage canals swollen by an increase in water levels. Formerly dried out areas have been inundated as floodgates have been opened, embankments breached and dams emptied upstream.

Meanwhile, new challenges – including the staking of agricultural claims on dried land and concern that resuscitating the marshlands will also revive malaria and other water-borne diseases – seem set to complicate efforts to return the Marshlands to their original state.

Note to journalists:

To view or download the most recent satellite images of the marshlands as well as UNEP’s 2001 report, “The Mesopotamian Marshlands: Demise of an Ecosystem”, visit

For more information, please contact:

Eric Falt at +254-2-62-3292, +254-733-682656 (cell) or ;
Nick Nuttall at +254-2-62-3084, +254-733-632755 (cell) or ; or
Michael Williams at +41-22-917-8242/8196/8244, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or .