Just out of the blue marshlands are reappearing:
New satellite imagery shows a rapid increase in water and vegetation cover in just the past three years, with the marshes rebounding to about 37 percent of the area they covered in 1970, up from about 10 percent in 2002, the United Nations Environment Program said in a report describing a multimillion dollar restoration project funded by Japan.
Well done, United Nations.
Saddam drained much of the Mesopotamian waters between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers by building dams, dikes and canals to punish the Marsh Arab inhabitants for supporting a Shiite Muslim rebellion following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He also ordered thousands killed.
All but 40,000 of the 450,000 locals fled or were killed.
That seems patently unfriendly, but then I’m not a patent lawyer.
Of almost 3,600 square miles of marshes in 1970, the area shrank by 90 percent to 304 square miles by 2002. As recently as 2001, some experts forecast the marshlands would disappear by 2008.
But restoration efforts since the fall of Saddam reversed much of the damage, bringing the current area to 1,400 square miles.
The experts forecasting the disappearance of the marshes by 2008 shouldn’t feel too bad. Very few forecast the disappearance of Saddam by that time.
I also like how it’s the “fall of Saddam”. It’s like he slipped or something.
I came across a great article on the efforts to restore the marshes a couple of months ago in, I think, Discover Magazine. It wasn’t available online, and I couldn’t find it anywhere else. At the time, experts weren’t nearly as optimistic about the efforts as this article makes it seem. Hopefully things are just plain going better than thought at first.
Also, I noted Saddam’s drainage of the marshes when excerpting Steven Vincent’s “In The Red Zone” a couple of months ago:
Mohammad was a staunch supporter of America and the liberation of Iraq. Those peace activists who took to the streets were fools,” he remarked, referring to the world-wide protests that took place before the invasion. If they saw for five minutes what went on this country under Saddam, they would not have tried to stop the war?
As if to prove his point, he leaned forward from the back seat and pointed out my window. “We’re on the outskirts of Fallujah,” he noted. “See the greenery around us?” It was true: although I hadn’t noticed before, I now saw on both sides of the highway bluish-green palm groves, hedges, shrubs and dark green grasslands. “This area should be desert, like everything else we’ve seen. But Saddam diverted irrigation waters from the Euphrates River in order to turn it into a new Garden of Eden for his supporters. But at the same time, he turned thousands of acres of fertile marshlands in southern Iraq into desert in order to punish the rebellious Shia. In this way” Mohammad concluded, settling back into his seat, “Saddam turned a wasteland into a paradise–and a paradise into a wasteland. He corrupted even the geography of Iraq.”
Well, thank goodness that the United Nations is finally straightening things out.