UN venture hopes to protect Iraq’s marshlands

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Oct 22, 2020

The Italian-based humanitarian group Un Ponte Per (UPP) on July 15 launched an formidable two-year venture in southern Iraq, funded by the United Nations Development Program and dubbed Sumerian, which goals to advertise financial progress and protect cultural heritage in the Ahwar of Southern Iraq in Dhi Qar Governorate, in partnership with a gaggle of non-governmental organizations, particularly Humat Dijlah (Tigris Protectors), Safina Projects and Carlo Leopardi Studio.

The Ahwar are marshlands made up of our bodies of water situated in southern Iraq and are divided into three important sections: the Hawizeh Marshes, the Hammar Marshes and the Central Marshes, whose water areas change from yr to yr in keeping with the quantity of water coming in from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. For over 5,000 years, Ahwar inhabitants have relied on the marshes for fishing, searching birds and geese, cultivating rice and elevating animals.

The head of the EU mission in Iraq, Martin Hath, mentioned on Aug. 26, “Launching the Sumerian project represents the EU’s approach to support Iraq by merging sustainable economic and social development with preserving the environment.”

On July 17, 2016, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee agreed to put the Ahwar on its World Heritage List as a world nature reserve, on the situation that excesses be eliminated, the return of indigenous individuals be facilitated and tourism growth is achieved. However, these situations are but to be met and the inhabitants nonetheless suffers from poverty and the dearth of job alternatives, which pressured them to promote their buffalo at low costs, as they’re unable to promote the milk. Raising these animals has change into even more durable amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ahwar inhabitants have been struggling for fairly a while now. Their living situations have been deteriorating for the reason that 1990s, again when the Saddam Hussein regime resorted to draining the marshes to expel armed opponents and coinciding with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.

Even after the struggle ended, the inhabitants continued to endure. On March 17, 2019, the supreme government committee of the marshlands and antiquities file in Dhi Qar revealed that 44 villages and dozens of colleges and well being clinics within the Central Marshes had ceased to exist.

UPP hopes the Sumerian venture will “contribute to decreasing the inhabitants’s distress,” Raed Mikhael, nation director at UPP, informed Al-Monitor. “The first objective is to empower youth and women with work and experience.”

He added, “The project aims to rehabilitate the area as a tourist destination by developing infrastructure, providing vocational training for residents in the field of ecotourism, preserving the environment as well as providing job opportunities.”

Mikhael famous, “Local communities, women, youth, civil society, local authorities and the private sector will contribute to managing sustainable development and improving the skills of locals by establishing small professional cooperatives that perpetuate personal development and focus on local ownership.”

He added, “An ecological village in Chibayish will be established along with tour stations for visitors, a factory for traditional boats, and handicrafts and hand-made souvenirs; cultural and artistic heritage events will be held.”

Mikhael continued, “I hope the project will provide facilities for tourism that attract visitors, which will generate revenues for the residents and thus enable them in the future to work independently without having to wait for external help.”

Parliament member Samia al-Ghalab, head of the Culture, Tourism and Antiquities Committee, informed Al-Monitor, “The committee supports any project that helps the development of the area and boosts the chances of keeping it on the World Heritage List,” stressing that “the executive bodies of any project must meet the conditions and requirements of UNESCO and be able to enhance the purification of the water of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, because the estuaries of the two rivers feed the Ahwar.”

She added, “No amount of money from the sums allocated to the Ahwar has been spent for over two years due to the austerity measures announced by the previous government, which makes us enthusiastic about any external financing, through projects that encourage tourism and the development of the environment in the country. Iraq is still suffering from the lack of revenues provided by the tourism sector, which does not match the size of the various components and qualifications that Iraq has to offer.”

Ghalab referred to as for “extensive plans and strategies to deal with maximizing revenues from tourist attractions and tourism activities and to enforce Cabinet Res. No. 100 regarding activating the tourism situation.”

Meanwhile, parliament member Ali al-Badiri, a member of the Committee on Agriculture, Water and Marshlands, informed Al-Monitor, “Some entities are attempting to sabotage any investment in the Ahwar.” He warned against “the Sumerian project facing the same fate if those parties are not stopped.” Although he didn’t title any celebration particularly, Badiri referred to influential political and armed forces, noting, “If this project succeeds, it will be a light at the end of the tunnel for the population amid the unemployment and lack of income.”

He added, “A project parallel with the Sumerian is underway in Hawr al-Dalmaj, and it has reached advanced stages. The integration of the two projects will revive the marshlands in Diwaniyah, Wasit, Nasiriyah, Amarah and Basra, where aquatic life is disrupted, while the state is completely absent.”

Badiri hopes the Sumerian venture might “expand its activities toward the fisheries and buffalo-breeding sector since the government has failed to come up with a strategy to develop the marshes for over four decades now.”

While the rivers are drying up and the inhabitants migrates on account of the cruel living situations and the dearth of job alternatives amid poor well being and social care and no infrastructure, the Ahwar faces an imminent existential danger that requires worldwide cooperation — not simply native cooperation — to save lots of this uncommon water atmosphere within the Middle East.