"Garden of Eden" in Iraq to Become National Park
by Fred Pearce
THE “Garden of Eden” has been saved, even as chaos grows all around. Last week, amid a wave of bombings on the streets of Baghdad, Iraq’s Council of Ministers found time to approve the creation of the country’s first national park – the centrepiece of a remarkable restoration of the Mesopotamian marshes in the south of the country.
This vast wetland of reed beds and waterways, home of the Ma’dan Marsh Arabs, is widely held to be the home of the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, the paradise where Adam and Eve were created and from which they were subsequently expelled.
After the Gulf war in 1991, Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussain, used dykes, sluices and diversions to cut off the country’s two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. This drained 93 per cent of the marshes, largely obliterating the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East.
The purpose was to expel the rebellious Ma’dan, but in the end, it sped Saddam’s downfall in 2003. Invading US tanks were able to drive north over the desert he had created and enter Baghdad far more easily. The Ma’dan later returned and broke the dykes. Water returned to some areas, as did the reed beds that sustained the birdlife and water buffalo…
(read more: New Scientist)
photo by Mudharaf Salim/Nature Iraq