Politicians in Iraq have known for a while that they’ve been missing something most all other countries have: national parks. This is all about to change and the government lays out plans to create Iraq’s first-ever national park in a region widely believed to be the located of Adam and Eve’s Garden of Eden.
Southern Iraq is a world away from the images of the country that we’re used to. Vast marshlands are home to creatures like the water buffalo, Basra reed warbler and the Iraq babbler. This is the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East and will be the location of the country’s first national park.
Many feared the marshes would disappear after Saddam Hussein cut off access to the country’s two biggest rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. In fact, 93% of the ecosystem was destroyed because of the dams built across the rivers. Fortunately, after Hussein’s downfall in 2003 the dams were destroyed and the water returned, totally restoring the reed beds.
All 278 bird species survived the ordeal which just goes to show how resilient nature really can be! Nature conservationists still can’t believe it’s true. The park will be protected as “the cradle of civilisation” as many believe Iraq to be the birthplace of many things like agriculture, writing, monotheism and the wheel.
For Nature Iraq, the charity who is spearheading the national park project, it’s more than just something written down on a piece of paper. The park will need reserved river water to sustain the marshes as Iraq’s neighbours upstream like Syria and Turkey are continually restricting water from the two rivers that feed into the marshes. A system of banks will have to be constructed to diver water directly into the wetlands in the spring if they are going to survive.
For now it’s not likely the park will welcome too many visitors arriving on flights to Iraq but in the future, the government hopes to attract paying visitors to the park which will certainly help sustain it in the long-run.