This Blog reported on August 24, 2005 (see "Categories-Wetlands" on right-hand side of this page) that true environmentalists should be thrilled Saddam Hussein was gone. During his reign, he destroyed most of the Biblical marshlands as retaliation for a local uprising against him after the Gulf War. The new Iraqi government, with the help of the United States, has been working to restore this ancient preserve.
As the Department of Defense recounts:
BASRA, Iraq, June 7, 2006 — The Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources inherited what it calls one of the world's greatest environmental catastrophes from the former regime - the parched Mesopotamian marshes in southern Iraq.
Marsh Arabs have been living among the southern wetlands for thousands of years, making their homes from abundant reeds and mud. They sell the reeds, catch fish from long wooden boats and herd water-buffalo to sustain themselves.
Fed by the Tigres and Euphrates rivers, the giant wetlands once stretched for more than 6,200 square-miles.
When Saddam Hussein seized power in the early 1970s, he began ordering small sections of the wetland drained to make room for military factories, chemical plants and other industry.
The ancient marshes fell victim to the regime once again during the Iran-Iraq war, beginning in 1980, and were drained even further because of the land's perceived tactical value.
The biggest impact on the marshes came at the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991. Hussein gave the order to drain the marshes completely in retribution for the Shia uprising against the regime. The huge cost of draining the marshes put a burden on Iraq's economy, and the environmental impact on the marshes' eco-system was disastrous. Certain types of birds, fish and plants normally found in the marshes rapidly disappeared.
After falling to only 10% of their former size under Saddam, the DOD reports that today the marshes are back up to 40% of that size. Full restoration will be a long process; but at least, and at last, things are on the right path.