The New Life of 'Garden of Eden'

Reflooding Brings New Life to Marsh


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Restoration programmes since the 2003 invasion have seen large portions of the former marshland re-flooded."

"Now a major restoration programme has seen people and wildlife return to one of the world's most famous wetlands. Drained to less than 10% of their former size under Saddam's regime, these vast marshes are coming to life again. Through the actions of environmentally-conscious and brave Arabs, the huge embankments have been breached, allowing the water to return."

Iraq Marsh Before Reflooded
Iraq Marsh After Reflooded

Restoration of the Lost Culture in Arab Marsh


The waters poured back over their desiccated, salt-encrusted lands.

By the time I first visited in 2008, roughly half the original marshes had been re-inundated, and there was real hope that Saddam’s ‘eco-cide’ could be reversed. A government official told me 40% of the marshes have been recovered, but that figure appeared to bear no relation to reality. The three main marshlands – Hawizeh, Central and Hammar – had fragmented into 10 smaller marshes, most with poor quality, and matters have only deteriorated in the six years since.

An Iraqi Marsh Arab paddles her boat at the Chebayesh marsh in Nassiriya
A girl stacks reeds on canoes on the banks of the marshes

Garden of Eden as a UNESCO World Heritage Site


The United Nations cultural agency Unesco has named Iraq's southern marshes - once decimated by Saddam Hussein - a World Heritage Site.

The area was 'unique, as one of the world's largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment'. A major restoration programme has seen people and wildlife return to the area, regarded by some as the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden. It also contains the ancient sites of Uruk, Tell Eridu and Ur - the birthplace of Biblical patriarch Abraham.