Bob at Howling at a Waning Moon has linked to two articles (here and here) documenting the recovery of marshes in southern Iraq that Saddam Hussein had drained in order to punish “people living there for acts of rebellion.”
The latest United Nations data shows that nearly 40% of the area has been restored to its original condition….
But water itself is only part of the story; people who have moved back to the area also need a secure supply of clean water, sanitation, and a reliable food supply.
Using an $11m donation from Japan, [the United Nations Environmental Program] is working alongside agencies of the current Iraqi government to install these services. “The greatest need is to supply environmentally sound technology for the provision of drinking water,” said Chizuru Aoki.
“One example of that is simply using plants to purify water – planting reeds, for example, which will remove pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds from the water as they grow, using them as nutrients.”
That will not work for all pollutants, however. One key issue is that much of the soil is highly saline, and Unep is looking at installing a desalination plant to produce drinkable water.
A full assessment of the local need has yet to be completed; and the UN acknowledges that it will take many years before the area is fully restored to its original condition – if, indeed, that is possible, with dams in Turkey, Syria and Iran reducing the amount of water which flows down the Tigris and Euphrates.
I won’t get into the war itself — you know where I stand there — but it’s definitely good to see some of the environmental damage of the Hussein years being mitigated. I’d imagine such a large-scale project could become a model for wetland restoration globally…