Heavy downpours a blessing to Iraqi marshlands

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By Husain al-Yaaqoubi

Azzaman, February 4, 2013

Iraq has recently seen heavy rains in quantities unprecedented and in areas previously thought to have turned into desert.

The downpours have inundated streets in major towns, turned roundabouts and parks into lakes and have caused wide destruction particularly in low-income neighborhoods.

But they have been a blessing for the marshlands.

For the first time, and thanks to the inundations, life returns to the Iraqi marshes with more areas covered with water in the years since their drainage by former regime of Saddam Hussein.

According to Kadhem al-Saaidi, the head of water resources in the southern Province of Missan, home to what is considered to be the original Garden of Ede, or the marshes, up to 700 square kilometers of Huwaiza, the largest marsh in the Iraq, are now covered with water.

“We are doing our best to control the flow of rain water and direct it towards the marshes,” he said.

Some marshes, like al-Awad, he said, were now completed covered with water, for the first time since the early 1990s.

“The percentage of wetlands is very high now due to heavy rain. The additional quantities of water are bound to breathe new life in Iraqi marshes, the life they lost when the former regime drained them,” Saaidi said.

The marshlands hold fresh water and Saaidi said the volume was enough to be used for irrigation and the greening of the desert which surrounds the marshlands.

Iraqi marshes were once the jewel of Iraq’s wildlife, both fauna and flora.

But the gigantic wetlands were drained by Saddam Hussein and turned into desert.

Hundreds of thousands of people, who relied on the marshes for a living, were made homeless and their way of way of life, dating back thousands of years, destroyed.

Many of the former villages are sprouting up and the rising water levels are certain to lead to a revival of the area’s once fascinating wildlife.