Rising from the marshes

In Southern Iraq nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers lie the Mesopotamian Marshes. A fertile patch of earth often referred to as “The Birthplace of Civilization,” because agriculture, the wheel, and the written word were all conceived of in this corner of the world. These beautiful wetlands that provided a habitat to a lot of wildlife, were destroyed by dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1991, shortly after the First Gulf War. But now, the once decimated wetlands are on their way to flourish again. 

Hussein burned and drained nearly all of the Mesopotamian Marshland in an effort to ‘smoke out’ native Shia insurgents who had taken refuge in the tall reeds that surround the marshes. Azzam Alwash, native of the Mesopotamian Marshland was heartbroken by the destruction of his home. “It is one thing watching satellite pictures showing my former Eden becoming a dead desert,” Alwash explains, “It is another thing seeing it up front and personal.”

Alwash decided to found Nature Iraq, a nonprofit whose mission is to protect, restore, and preserve Iraq’s natural environment. Their first project is to bring back to life the Mesopotamian Marshes. In April 2013 Alwash was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, an honor bestowed to grassroots environmental heroes, and shortly after in July the Mesopotamian Marshes became Iraq’s first National Park. Alwash hopes that winning the Goldman Environmental Prize, which comes with a $150,000 no-strings-attached purse, will aid in restoring the rest of the Mesopotamian Marshes as well as establishing a series of “Peace Parks” along the Iran-Iraq border.

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Rising from the marshes

In Southern Iraq nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers lie the Mesopotamian Marshes. A fertile patch of earth often referred to as “The Birthplace of Civilization,” because agriculture, the wheel, and the written word were all conceived of in this corner of the world. These beautiful wetlands that provided a habitat to a lot of wildlife, were destroyed by dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1991, shortly after the First Gulf War. But now, the once decimated wetlands are on their way to flourish again. 

Hussein burned and drained nearly all of the Mesopotamian Marshland in an effort to ‘smoke out’ native Shia insurgents who had taken refuge in the tall reeds that surround the marshes. Azzam Alwash, native of the Mesopotamian Marshland was heartbroken by the destruction of his home. “It is one thing watching satellite pictures showing my former Eden becoming a dead desert,” Alwash explains, “It is another thing seeing it up front and personal.”

Alwash decided to found Nature Iraq, a nonprofit whose mission is to protect, restore, and preserve Iraq’s natural environment. Their first project is to bring back to life the Mesopotamian Marshes. In April 2013 Alwash was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, an honor bestowed to grassroots environmental heroes, and shortly after in July the Mesopotamian Marshes became Iraq’s first National Park. Alwash hopes that winning the Goldman Environmental Prize, which comes with a $150,000 no-strings-attached purse, will aid in restoring the rest of the Mesopotamian Marshes as well as establishing a series of “Peace Parks” along the Iran-Iraq border.

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