Created: 8/1/1994

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible


VMM- -

The Destruction of Iraq's Southern Marshes

he Dili wn



The Destruction Iraq's Southern Marshes

more thanmillennium Ihc wetland* near Ihe confluence ol the Tipa ind fupcrales Rivers have Bipporledaaarjue way of Ufe forwellers and provided ihcJta for Bedouins. tUvtc, malcooienu. ind opponents of Ihc central authorities in Baghdad. Because tbi* watery ecosystem was accessible only by mullrmies from ancient baseshe present hive been unable to effectively purttie the insurgents wbo hive sought refuge here. In the springost-Gulf war Shia uprising engulfed much of southern Iraq and. slier Baghdad regained control of Ihe snajor dries, the trrsargewtsfartedetreat to nfnmoi is the Al 'Amanh and Hiwr al Hajanw Marshes. Tbe Baghdad regime's strategy for dealing with this marsh-based insurgency focused oo Isrge-tcak waier divervoo projecur> the souihem wetiandi

TodrylhcAJ 'Amanuiaghdad eoostructed an casl-west dam and canal across its Dcethere aide to cut off the Tigris River oistrtbuuries. tt* nsarth ssource of water. The divertedarned soothjn-wide canal to the Euphrates River near the head of the Shatt al Arab. The Euphrates River, it* primary source of water for tbe Hawr al Hammar Marsh, was dammedf An Nasirtyah aad west of AI Quraah, leavingry stream bed through the area that had been covered by the Hawt al Hammarajor tributary of the Euphrates Is being divertedeprcsuoo west of the Hawr al Hammar Marsh,rge lake The rrm lining faanbeasea river water is carriedanal system from the dam east of An Naairiyah, south of the Hawraminar Marsh into the Shalt al Ham ah Canal which empties into the Persian Oulf. By3 roost surface water had evaporated from the Hawr al Hammar and Al' Araarah Marshes

Environmental Impact of Marshmarshes of southeastern Iraq had provided a

ma/Joca! lutiy area for bird, migraur^

from Asia lo Africa, and was homeast number of ibises, egrets, Iserons, waders, storks,ndide ranee of fuh speoes cooldd in tab watery eccarystern, and sosne of The migratory species were probably an important source of income to PeraianOulf fishermen. Tbe drying of ibe marshes ii preventing the uueracboti of water, soils, and vegetation thai sustained this rudaiai De*rrtfiea6on hascaused tbe death of many animals and could lead to the extinction of speoes unique to the i

Byhe Iraqi rnarshdryins program had earned ihef most surface water from tbe Hawt al liammar and Al 'Amarah Marsha. Tie rnimecuie effect, of the Jots of surface water waaft

may remain, eithertormant state or subsisting on the meager rainfall that occurs during the wet season. An assortment of wetland wildliferdc<nted cc died, aad various fish rx^qlatscers-opw whkh local marshdepended fa prrton-elisap-peared. As the surface water evaporated, salt accumula-bonarust on the bed ia some anas of the former marsh. Thesetiaaariy io al Hammar Marsh, ill increase the salmrr, of the soil, aod decrease its fertility, making ii unsuitable for apiculture.

Tbe Iraqi regime's waier diversion projects will abo affect the regional enviroranent-for example, ihc toss of the marshes1 absception capacity will probably increase flooding between April and June, after the spring runoff has entered (be Tigris and Euphrates river systems Agr>nihural runoff into tbe Persian Gulf will also Increase- as the nver water entered thet-velocity slowed, sHowing the marshes to filler sediment and chemicals from ihe water before it entered the Oulf Srdioaem orw ekpoais^

sted in ihe Iraqi Aversion canals and tbe Shan al Arab.

As lhe marsh watersvaporate* lhe Iraqi miliiaryurn the remaining vegetation. IANDSAT amiimagery of the marslics from the summer3 throughconsistently- shotted large fires, some wM woke plumesii km Baghdad tonunats to folkm thisr hurmng of the remaningy me Iarmyto iheof the marsh area at -ell aiUingthe fen remaining mhabitanis Ihr drt andremaining prm Ide no sustenance or protection ft" lhealion- ihe liaat military increased accessibility andofvtenund

I'ANDSAT picturesisaster of epic propornoni occurring in these permanent and seasonalIn thehe marshe*quare km nest of the Tigris River, with setter leu's varyingew inches io several feet, depending on the season Afterint recent Shtahe Baghdad regime startederies of canals and dams to prevent waterntering the marshes. Si3 less thanercent of the former marsh area was eoieiedbvdirect result of effort ithe Iraqi government u< dry the marshland


After1 Shltl Uprising, llie Iraqiftoierntnent underlmit anhe southern marshes. Willi lhe eimplclion a) an east- we it damorili soulh canal ihe nuijtir Miller supply to the Al Amarah Marsh ivas cm tiff

the falli very littlewater remained In the finmei marsh area. Areas thai wereear-round lakesave' ol deled sails has hern deposited on ihe surface. In large area*he former marshes lihe bright green areas) the normal marsh vegetation, iceds and thistle, wai replaced hv grasses characteristic of areaset soil, 'ftie Eupliratet ffiiei was dammed east of An Wasiriyah and diverted south around the Htiwr at Mtwtmar Marsh, leavingiver/red between An Nasiriytth and A! Qiiinah

(,fepk pl1lpi,,utm% twurring in these permanent and seasonal

wetlands. In thehe marshes0 sauare kmtgrtsith water levelsa few mrhes in several feet, deciding on the seasmt After the most recent Shiahe Baghdad tegane sianederies oftanah and dams to prevent isaterntenng ,he marth-s hvess thanercent o, the farmer marsh area was covered by waier-ci direct result .tf effortsthe Irutp government lo dry the marshland.

Original document.

Comment about this article or add new information about this topic: