Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Marsh Arabs of Iraq 

The Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq are the modern-day descendants of ancient Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations. This is how they lived in as recently as 1990:

In what has been called "the environmental crime of the century," Saddam Hussein systematically destroyed the marsh habitat. After the Shiite rebellion of 1991, Saddam must have feared that the marshes and their 200,000 Shiite inhabitants could become a center of resistance to his regime. He dumped toxic chemicals into the water and blanketed the area with napalm bombs. The final blow was Saddam's "Third River Project," which diverted the flow of the Euphrates river so that water no longer reached the marshes. As a result, the marshes were slowly drained. By 2001, as much as 90 percent of original marshland had been replaced by desert. Today's remaining Marsh Arabs live in refugee camps in Iran, or in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City. The estimated cost of restoring the marshes is $1 billion, although some of the damage, such as species extinction, is irreversible.
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