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Volume 18, Number 21, May 19, 2004

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Canada to Assist Restoration of Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq

According to Aileen Carroll, Canada's Minister for International Cooperation, Canada will help Iraq to restore an important and environmentally sensitive region in southern Iraq, in partnership with the University of Waterloo. 

"Canada's participation in international efforts to restore the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq supports our commitment to improve the quality of life of the Iraqi people," said Mr. Telegdi. "But beyond that, our support for this project will benefit the region and global environmental efforts," said the Minister.

The marshes in Iraq, particularly the Mesopotamian marshes located in southern Iraq, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet, have long been recognized to be the largest in the Middle East and to have regional and global significance both for biodiversity and for human culture.

During the 1990's, the wetlands were reduced to seven percent of their original size due to numerous dam projects upstream in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The population of the marshes has dropped from 500,000 people to 50,000, the majority of whom were displaced. Recently, local people, including the Ma'dan, have started to return to their homeland and are making attempts to re-flood some areas. 

The University of Waterloo's Wetlands Research Centre, the only university-based research centre focusing on wetlands in Canada, will contribute scientific expertise in the restoration efforts which will help in the repatriation of the Ma'dan peoples to Iraq and the re-establishment of their traditional lifestyles and culture. It will also support the building of wetland science and restoration expertise in Iraqi institutions, and facilitate the development of a National Wetland Program and Strategy in coordination with existing programs in the Middle East and internationally. 

"This is an excellent opportunity for the University Waterloo to contribute to the Iraqi marshland restoration project," said David Johnston, President of the University of Waterloo. "The work done here at our Wetlands Research Centre by Dr. Barry Warner and his colleagues helps Canada to play a major role in international wetland issues given the large proportion of the world wetland resources situated in this country." 

This $3 million initiative, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will support the provision of Canadian expertise from universities, research institutes and museums, nature federations and non-governmental organizations. It will also support graduate programs and professional training for Iraqis, as well as the establishment of wetland restoration demonstration sites in cooperation with various Iraqi institutions.

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