What's the Latest Development?
Despite recent clashes in Baghdad, and water disputes between Iraq and other countries in the region, an NGO called Nature Iraq has succeeded in restoring an area long believed to be the Biblical Garden of Eden to its original marshland state. The land, originally the largest wetland system in the Middle East, has now been declared a national park by the government, allowing conservationists to take steps to preserve their work. This includes reserving a share of the Euphrates River at a time when its flow is increasingly being restricted by Syria, Iran and Turkey.
What's the Big Idea?
Ninety-three percent of the marshland disappeared shortly after the first Gulf War, when then-president Saddam Hussein ordered the building of dykes and other projects that resulted in its separation from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and the expelling of the rebellious Ma'dan people who lived in the area. Surprisingly, all of the animal species who inhabited the wetlands, including all 278 recorded bird species, survived to return to the area upon its restoration. Nature Iraq founder Azzam Alwash says that in order for the marshland to stay intact, international water-sharing treaties must be observed. He also hopes that, eventually, tourists will help fund its management.
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