Since 2004, the UNEP “Support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshland” has been in operation to sustainably manage and restore the Iraqi Marshlands. The UNEP project has been facilitating strategy formulation, monitoring marshland conditions, and raising capacity of Iraqi decision makers. The project is also providing safe drinking water to over 20,000 marshland residents, and implementing sanitation and wetland management options on a pilot basis utilizing environmentally sound technologies.
The Iraqi Marshlands constitute the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East, with environmental and socio-cultural significance. Since the 1970s, the Marshlands have been damaged significantly, due to upstream dam construction and drainage operations by the former Iraqi regime. By the time the former regime collapsed in 2003, these Marshlands - with their rich biodiversity and unique cultural heritage - had been almost entirely destroyed. As the former regime ended, people began to open floodgates and break down embankments that had been built to drain the Marshlands. Re-flooding has since occurred in some areas.
Extensive ecological damage to the area, with the accompanying displacement of much of the indigenous population, was identified by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations/World Bank Needs Assessment Initiative for the Reconstruction of Iraq as one of the countryís major environmental and humanitarian disasters.
UNEPís dialogues with the local communities and government officials confirmed that the provision of safe drinking water was the number one priority for the local population. The area also faces water quality problems from sewage and high level of salinity, as well as ecosystem degradation. These problems are in part due to the limited flow of water through the Marshlands, as well as inadequate wastewater and water quality management practices.
To protect human health and livelihoods and to preserve the areaís ecosystems and biodiversity, the Iraqi authorities included water quality and Marshlands management on the priority list for reconstruction under the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Iraq Trust Fund and made direct appeals to donor governments for assistance. The UNEP project has been responding to these Iraqi priorities.more>>
UNEPís Project to Help Iraqis Restore and Manage the Marshlands
The first phase of the project (Phase I) has been funded through the UNDG Iraq Trust Fund in 2004, with earmarked contributions from the Government of Japan. In 2006, the project has been extended with additional bilateral funding from the Government of Italy and the Government of Japan (Phase II-A and II-B). The project has also received funding pledge from the Government of Japan, and will proceed to Phase III in 2007 and 2008.
To implement this project in a coordinated manner, UNEP has established close cooperation with various Iraqi ministries, including the Ministry of Environment (MOE), Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR), and the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works (MMPW), as well as governorates, local, and academic institutions. The project has also maintained presence within Iraq by engaging a National Project Coordinator in Baghdad.
The International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) , within the Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics (UNEP DTIE), is carrying out the project implementation.