• Keywords: Iraq Cultural Landscape, Marshlands, Lower Mesopotamia, Al-Hammar Marshes, Central Marshes, al-Amara Marshes, al-Huwaizah or Haur Al Hawizeh or al-Azim Marshes, migratory station, birds, wetlands, Ma'dan, Sumerian, Bani Asad, Bani Tamim, Albu-Hassan, Albu-Muhammad, Bani Lam.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

The Marshlands (al-ahwar) of Mesopotamia in southern Iraq, is registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative list in preparation for nominating it to be a natural and cultural (mixed) world heritage site, with date of submission: 29/10/2003, category: mixed and ref.: 1838. RAQ (1 RAMSAR Site, 137,700 hectares) The Marshlands od Mesopotamia are recorded in the “Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East” (IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR, 1994) with the name “The Wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia”. Hawizeh Marsh (Haur Al-Hawizeh), which is one of the wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia, is registered in “The List of Wetlands of International Importance” (RAMSAR, 2013). It is also listed as a wetland of international importance by Carp (1980), and has been identified as an “Important Bird Area” by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994). Other twelve wetlands of lower Mesopotamia were listed as wetlands of international importance by Carp (1980), and all 19 of the wetlands described as Sites 13 to 31 have been identified as “Important Bird Areas” by BirdLife International (Evans, 1994). BirdLife International has also identified the Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq as an “Endemic Bird Area”, i.e. an important concentration of bird biodiversity where habitat destruction would cause disproportionately large numbers of species extinctions (ICBP, 1992). At international level, Iraq is a contracting party to the World Heritage Convention, but has not designated any natural World Heritage Sites. It is also party to the Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, and to the Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and Coastal Areas. There is a National Committee of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme, but no Biosphere Reserves have been established.

  • Tentative List of UNESCO
  • RAMSAR
  • IUCN
  • Others

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

The Mesopotamian Marshes or Iraqi Marshes (also Known as The Lower wetlands of Mesopotamia) are a wetland area located in southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran. Geographically, the heartland of the marshes comprised three principal areas: a) the al-Hammar Marshes, located south of the Euphrates between al-Nasiriyya and Basra, b) the Central Marshes, located between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers in a triangular area bounded by al-Nasiriyya, al-Qurna, and Qal’at Salih, with a section further north around the city of al-`Amara (commonly known as the al-`Amara Marshes), and c) the al-Huwaizah Marshes, located east of the Tigris and extending into Iran (where they are known as the al-Azim Marshes). The site is proposed in category: mixed, in the Tentative List of UNESCO, but Med-O-Med has considered appropiate to give another step considering this site as a Cultural Landscape taking into account its natural and cultural heritage, as an associative and a continuing landscape, mainly because of the cultural significance linked to the landscape (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008): -Environmental Heritage Components: It is a rare aquatic landscape in the desert, providing habitat for the Marsh Arabs and important populations of wildlife. Until the 1970s, the marshlands (al-ahwar) of Mesopotamia, in Southern Iraq, had covered an area of up to 20,000 square kilometers around the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq. Together, these wetlands formed a series of interconnected permanent marshes and lakes covering an area of some 8,800 square kilometers, extending to some 20,000 kilometers when large tracts of dry or desert land were seasonally inundated. There are several endemic animal and botanical species that depended on the habitat of the marshes and they are important stations for migratory birds. -Cultural Heritage Components: The marshlands were once home to several hundred thousand inhabitants, the Ma’dan, a people whose unique way of life had been preserved for over 5,000 years. The Ma’dan consist of a number of different Shi’a tribes, including the Bani Asad, Bani Tamim, Albu-Hassan, Albu-Muhammad, and Bani Lam. Their reed houses are built on artificial islands made from layers of mats, reeds and mud, and, until recently, virtually all of their needs were obtained from the surrounding lakes and marshes. The Ma’dan are primarily buffalo herders, fishermen and mat-weavers, although they cultivate a little rice, for this region, their culture has remained almost unchanged to the present time. Lower Mesopotamia is the legendary site of the Garden of Eden, and possesses a number of ruined cities of great antiquity such as Ur and Babylon. Civilization was well established in this region by the 4th millennium BC, and a sophisticated irrigation system developed at that time. As recently as the 1990s, they were still using marsh reeds to construct delicately arched dwellings on artificial islands and waterways.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination The Marshlands of Mesopotamia: al-Hammar Marshes, Central Marshes, al-Huwaizah.
  • Current denomination The Marshlands of Mesopotamia: al-Hammar Marshes, Central Marshes, al-Huwaizah.
  • Original denomination Al-Hammar Marshes, Central (al-Amara) Marshes, al-Huwaizah/Haur Al Hawizeh (al-Azim) Marshes.
  • Popular denomination Al-Hammar Marshes, Central Marshes (al-`Amara Marshes), al-Huwaizah Marshes (al-Azim Marshes).
  • Address: The Marshlands of Mesopotamia are along the lower courses of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, from the region of Kut and Samawa in the west to the region of Basrah in the southeast. In Al Basrah, Al Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Maysan and Wasit Governorates.
  • Geographical coordinates: The Marshlands of Mesopotamia: 29°55'-32°45'N, 45°25'-48°30'E Altitude: From near sea level to approximately 30 m above sea level. Haur Al Hawizeh: 31°00’-31°45'N, 47°25'-47°50'E Haur Al Hawizeh Country: Iraq Coordinates: 31°00’-31°45'N, 47°25'-47°50'E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: As their name suggests, the Mesopotamian Marshes are located in the larger region which used to be called Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia, meaning "in between rivers", is now occupied by modern Iraq, eastern Syria, south-eastern Turkey, and southwest Iran. The marshes lie mostly within southern Iraq and a portion of southwestern Iran. Originally covering an area of20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi) and divided into three major areas: (a) the Haur Al Hammar and its associated marshes (350,000 ha) south of the Euphrates, (b) the Central Marshes (300,000 ha), a vast complex of permanent lakes and marshes north of the Euphrates and west of the Tigris, and (c) Haur Al Hawizeh and its associated marshes (220,000 ha) extending east from the Tigris into neighbouring Iran.
  • Access and transport facilities: The elaborate network of rivers and canals is used extensively for boat transportation, and until recently provided the only means of travel between the many settlements in the marshes.
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THE MARSHLANDS OF MESOPOTAMIA CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (IRAK)

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THE MARSHLANDS OF MESOPOTAMIA CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (IRAK) 29.916666, 47.416667 THE MARSHLANDS OF MESOPOTAMIA CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (IRAK) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Iraqi Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Iraqi Government.
  • Legal protection: No measures have been taken by the Iraqi government to conserve the wetland ecosystems or their fauna and flora, and, in general, the government gives low priority to nature conservation. The few conservation laws issued by the government (e.g. restrictions on hunting and fishing) exist on paper only and have never been implemented or enforced. The destruction of the wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia continues at an accelerating pace. Legislation has been introduced to prohibit fishing during the spawning season, but no serious steps have been taken to implement this, and the seasonal prohibition on fishing is widely disregarded. The environment wildlife law of 1981 is presumed to legislate for wildlife preserves including those in existence before that date (IUCN, 1992). However, in the late 1970s, the Government introduced legislation banning all hunting in Iraq in order to conserve wildlife, particularly terrestrial game which had been heavily persecuted in the past. Nevertheless, it was clear in 1979 that these laws were being widely disregarded, at least in the case of duck-netting which was observed at many localities in the wetlands. These and later hunting restrictions have not been implemented or enforced, and sport-hunting is now organized by the Government through a "Hunting Club" (K.Y. Al-Dabbagh, in litt.).
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: Organizations involved with Wetlands: A considerable amount of research has been carried out on the wetlands of Iraq, especially in the Mesopotamian Marshes -Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation: The government body responsible for management of the natural environment. The General Directorate of Horticulture and Forestry is responsible for the establishment of protected areas, legislation and enforcement of protection for individual species. The Department of Fisheries is responsible for the management of inland fisheries. Biological Research Centre, Iraqi Atomic Commissio. This is probably the only fully operational biological research centre in Iraq at the present time. The Centre has recently established a section for the study of inland waters, and particularly fish ecology. -University of Baghdad: The Iraq Natural History Museum (renamed the Natural History Research Centre in the late 1970s and early 1980s) supports a wide range of studies of Iraq's flora and fauna, and produces a series of "Publications" and "Bulletins". University of Basrah The Department of Biology, Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, Marine Research Centre and Natural History Museum conduct research on hydrology, limnology, ecology, fauna (particularly fish), flora and pollution in the Mesopotamian Marshes, Shatt Al Arab and northern Gulf. -University of Mosul: The Department of Biology has conducted research on invertebrates in rivers and canals in northern Iraq, and is currently carrying out studies, mostly of a hydrological. nature, at Aski Mosul Reservoir. -University of Salahdinn (formerly Sulaiymania): The Department of Biology has carried out some research, mainly limnological studies, at Dukan Reservoir. -Iraq Biological Research Centre: The Department of Zoology and Aquatic Biology conducted some studies on fish biology, invertebrate ecology and pollution in wetlands, and also general ecological studies with insects, birds and mammals. The Centre was closed in late 1989. -Iraq Foundation and the "Eden again Project": The Iraq Foundation, with funding by the U.S. Department of State, undertook a project to determine a viable method of restoring the Mesopotamian Marshlands in 2003. The EDEN AGAIN project included development of a hydrologic model of the marshes to determine the quantity of water necessary to restore various areas of the marshlands. The project works for the restoration of the southern marshes which were the target of a campaign by the Iraqi government in the early to mid nineties. The environmental and military campaign desiccated the marshlands, destroyed the environment, burnt villages, and drove hundreds of thousands of the indigenous ma'dan population into external exile or internal displacement. This project continues as part of Nature Iraq and Eden Again, and remains significant for its human, environmental and historical impact.

4. HISTORY

In the 4th millennium BC the first literate societies emerged in Southern Mesopotamia, often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization, and the first cities and complex state bureaucracies were developed there during the Uruk period. Due to the geographical location and the ecological factors of the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shape fertile area running from the basins of the Nile in Egypt, northwards along the Mediterranean coast in Palestine and Israel, and southwards again along the Euphrates and the Tigris towards the Persian Gulf, civilizations were able to develop agricultural and technological programmes. The crucial trigger was the availability of wild edible plant species. Farming arose early in the Fertile Crescent because the area had a great quantity of wild wheat and pulse species that were nutritious and easy to domesticate.

  • Oldest initial date /building and inauguration date: 4th millennium BC.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: Wetland
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Climate and environmental conditions: The great alluvial plains of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers comprise about 25% of Iraq's surface area. Topographically, this region is composed of marshlands and low-lying plains dissected by sluggish drainage channels. The whole area is extremely flat, with a fall of only 4 cm/km over the last 300 km of the Euphrates and 8 cm/km along the Tigris. Thus, the annual flooding, which may be in the order of 1.5 to 3 metres, regularly inundates immense areas of land (the highest flood ever recorded was 9 metres on the Tigris in 1954). As a result, much of the region is swampy. At the height of the flood season in spring, virtually all of the land in the triangle Basrah-Amara-Nasiriya was formerly one expanse of continuous marshland, while in the dry season there remained numerous large permanent lakes and extensive reed beds interconnected by an intricate network of channels. In recent years, the seasonal flooding has occurred on a much smaller scale than before because of intensive water regulation by dams upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates and especially on the Euphrates in Turkey and Syria. Iraq has two marked seasons, a dry and intensely hot summer and a relatively cold, wet winter, with spring and autumn as short transitional periods between the two. The climate is of a typical semi-arid continental type, chiefly characterized by wide diurnal and annual ranges in temperature. The maximum recorded temperature is 50°C, while temperatures of 45°C are not unusual occurrences in June, July and August. The minimum recorded temperature is -11°C. The diurnal range of temperature often exceeds 15-20°C, with daily temperatures generally ranging between 20° and 40°C in summer, and between 5° and 15°C in winter. The relative humidity is usually very low, especially in summer. The average annual rainfall ranges from about 100 mm in the south to 300 mm on the upper plains and 1,000 mm in the mountains, but there are wide variations between years.
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: As their name suggests, the Mesopotamian Marshes are located in the larger region which used to be called Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia, meaning "in between rivers", is now occupied by modern Iraq, eastern Syria, south-eastern Turkey, and southwest Iran. The marshes lie mostly within southern Iraq and a portion of southwestern Iran. Originally covering an area of20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi) and divided into three major areas, the Central Marshes lie between the Tigris and Euphrates, while the Hammar Marshes lie south of the Euphrates and the Hawizeh Marshes are bound east of the Tigris. Before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, about 90% of the marshes had been drained. The marshes lie on a flat alluvial plain, as the Euphrates decreases only 12 m (39 ft) in elevation during its last 300 km (190 mi) while the Tigris falls 24 m (79 ft). This delta provides an environment that allows the Tigris and Euphrates to often meander along, forming distributaries. The Euphrates has often terminated near Nasiriyah into the Hammar Marshes as its flow slows. The Tigris can distribute some of its flow into the Central and Hawizeh marshes as it slows near Amarah. Downstream of Amarah though, several of its tributaries originating in Iran allow the Tigris' flow to increase and maintain a steady course thereafter. The three marshes combined once provided an intertwined environment, particularly during periods of flooding as the rivers overflowed.
Water resources:
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*In general, eight major wetland types can be identified: - Permanent freshwater lakes with a rich submergent growth of aquatic vegetation, and typically with a marginal zone of floating aquatic vegetation. - Permanent freshwater marshes dominated by tall stands of Phragmites, Typha and Cyperus. - Rivers, streams, canals and irrigation channels, typically with little emergent vegetation and steep earth or muddy banks. - Permanent ponds, mainly man-made irrigation ponds and duck-hunting ponds, typically with a pronounced drawdown in summer and little emergent vegetation. - Seasonal freshwater marshes dominated by rushes and sedges, typically occurring as a broad belt around the edge of the permanent marshes. - Seasonally flooded mudflats and semi-desertic steppe. - Irrigated land and seasonally flooded arable land. - Shallow, brackish to saline lagoons, mostly seasonal and often with extensive areas of Salicornia. *And, specifically, each one: -Central Marshes: The Central Marshes receive water from influxes of the Tigris's distributaries, namely the Shatt al-Muminah and Majar-al-Kabir south of Amarah. The Tigris serves as the marshes' eastern boundary while the Euphrates serves as its southern boundary. Covering an area of 3,000 km2 (1,200 sq mi), the marshes consist of reed beds and several permanent lakes including Umm al Binni lake. The Al-Zikri and Hawr Umm Al-Binni lakes are two of the notable lakes and are 3 m (9.8 ft) deep. -Hammar Marshes: The Hammar Marshes is primarily fed by the Euphrates and lies south of it with a western extent to Nasiriyah, eastern border of the Shatt al-Arab and southern extent of Basrah. Normally, the marshes are a 2,800 km2 (1,100 sq mi) area of permanent marsh and lake but during period of flooding can extend to 4,500 km2 (1,700 sq mi). In periods of flooding, water from the Central Marsh, fed by the Tigris can overflow and supply the marshes with water. Hammar Lake is the largest water body within the marsh and is 120 km (75 mi) long and 250 km (160 mi) with depths ranging between1.8 m (5.9 ft)-3 m (9.8 ft). In the summer, large portion of the marshes' and lake's shore are exposed and islands are exposed which are used for agriculture. -Hawizeh Marshes: The Hawizeh Marshes lie east of the Tigris and a portion lie in Iran. The Iranian side of the marshes, known as Hawr Al-Azim, is fed by the Karkheh River, while the Tigris distributaries al-Musharah and Al-Zahla supply the Iraqi side, only with much less water than the Karkheh. During spring flooding, the Tigris may directly flow into the marshes. The marshes are 80 km (50 mi) from north to south and about 30 km (19 mi) from east to west, covering a total area of 3,000 km2 (1,200 sq mi). Permanent portions of the marshes include the northern and central portion while the southern part is generally seasonal. Moderately dense vegetation can be found in the permanent areas along with large 6 m (20 ft)-deep lakes in the northern portions. As the Hawizeh Marshes fared the best during the draining, they can facilitate the reproduction of flora, fauna and other species in Central and Hammar marshes.
Vegetation:

An account of the vegetation of the marshes of southern Iraq has been published in Arabic by the University of Basrah (Mbar, 1985). Throughout the wetlands, the emergent vegetation is dominated by Common Reed (Phragmites australis), Reedmace (Typha angustfolia), Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) and occasionally Arundo donax. Phragmites dominates the more permanent areas of marsh, and Typha the more seasonal areas of marsh, while Scirpus brachyceras dominates in temporarily flooded areas (Thesiger, 1954). The deeper, permanent lakes support a rich submerged aquatic vegetation with species such as hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum, often dominant), eel grass (Vallisneria spiralis), pondweed (Potamogeton lucens and P. pectinatus), water milfoil (Myriophyllum sp.), stonewort (Chara sp.), naiads (Najas marina and N. armata) and water fern (Salvinia sp.). Water-lilies (Nymphoides peltata, N. indica, Nymphaea caerulea and Nuphar sp.), water soldier (Pistia stratiotes) and duckweed (Lemna gibba) cover the surface of the smaller lakes and quieter backwaters. The phytoplankton is dominated by diatoms, mainly of the genera Synedra, Tabellaria, Melosira, Cyclotella and Fragillaria, at least 77 diatom taxa (Hinton & Maulood, 1980) and 101 non-diatom taxa (Hinton & Maulood, 1982) are known from the brackish waters of southern Iraq. Pankow et al. (1979) found a total of 129 algae in the marshes near Qurna (72 Bacillariophyta, 28 Chlorophyta, 26 Cyanophyta, two Euglenophta and one Chrysophyta), large numbers of Desmidiaceae were also present. Al-Saboonchi et al. (1982) found a total of 63 genera of phytoplankton in five major groups (Euglenophyta, Chiorophyta, Cyanophyta, Pyrrhophyta, Chrysophyta) in the Qurna marshes. Nurul-Islam (1982) documented 59 algae from Haur Al Hammar (38 Chiorophyta, 19 Cyanophyta and two Rhodophyta).

Fauna:

The marshes are home to 40 species of bird and several species of fish plus demarcating a range limit for a number of avifauna species. The marshes were once home to millions of birds and the stopover for millions of other migratory birds, including flamingos, pelicans and herons as they traveled from Siberia to Africa. At risk are 40% to 60% of the world’s marbled teal population that live in the marshes, along with 90% of the world’s population of Basra Reed-warbler. Also at risk are the Sacred Ibis and African darter. A subspecies of the Hooded crow known as the Mesopotamian crow is found in this part of southern Iraq. Seven species are now extinct from the marshes, including the Indian Crested Porcupine, the bandicoot rat and the marsh gray wolf. The draining of the marshes caused a significant decline in bioproductivity, following the Multi-National Force overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime, water flow to the marshes was restored and the ecosystem has begun to recover. The fate of the two species of otter (the Eurasian otter and the smooth-coated otter) which were historically present in the marshes on either side of the border remains unknown. The marshes qualify as one of only 221 Endemic Bird Areas in the world, and one of only 11 which are wholly or largely non-marine wetlands, because they support almost the entire world population of two species, the Basrah Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus griseldis) and Iraq Babbler (Turdoides altirostris).

Land uses and economical activities:
The Ma'dan are primarily buffalo herders, fishermen and mat-weavers, although they cultivate a little rice: -Water buffalo remain the basis of family wealth, but in recent years fishing has played an increasing role in the local economy. The water buffalo provide milk, butter, yoghurt, meat and dung, for most of the year, they graze in the reed-beds, but in winter they remain tethered on platforms and are fed with cut reed shoots. -Several marine fish species of great economic importance are dependent on the estuarine systems and marshes for spawning, e.g. the pomphret Pampus argenteus and the saboor Hilsa hilsa, while the penaeid shrimp Metapenaeus affinis undertakes seasonal migrations between the Gulf and nursery grounds in the marshes. This shrimp is of significant economic importance to artisanal fishermen along the coasts of the northern Gulf, particularly Kuwait (Maitby, 1994). The estimated annual catch of fish in the Mesopotamian marshes in the early 1960s was 30,000 tonnes, of which 70% were species of Cyprinidae. In 1990, FAO estimated that the total inland catch of fish in Iraq was 23,600 tonnes, with over 60% of this coming from the Mesopotamian marshes. The commonest fish in the catches, in order of importance, are "bunni" Barbus sharpeyi, "khatan" B. xanthopterus, "himri" B. luteus, "shaboot" B. grypus and the introduced common carp Cyprinus carpio. Commercial landings of the shrimp Metapenaeus affinis at the two main fish markets at Basrah during September-November 1985 averaged 1,000 kg/day (Salman et al., 1990). Traditionally spear-fishermen, catching species of barbel and carp only for their own needs, the Ma'dan have takhe Ma'dan have taken to using nets to catch fish for export to Basrah and Baghdad. -Rice is cultivated in shallow wetlands, also millet, wheat, barley, sugar cane, dates and some vegetables, especially tomatoes, are grown on artificial islands within the marshes. -Mat-weaving has also become an important source of income. Reeds are used in the construction of floating islands for villages and, when woven, provide pliable coverings used in housing, fencing and packaging. Reeds are also harvested commercially to provide pulp for a paper factory near Basrah.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Reclaimed areas of marsh and the adjacent irrigated plains are widely cultivated for millet, rice, wheat, barley, sugar cane, dates and some vegetables, especially tomatoes. They are grown on artificial islands within the marshes.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

The wetlands in the middle and lower basin of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Iraq were, until recently at least, much the most extensive wetland ecosystems in the Middle East. In their lower courses, these two great rivers have created a vast network of wetlands, the Mesopotamian Marshes, covering about 15,000 sq km. These wetlands comprise a complex of inter-connected shallow freshwater lakes, marshes and seasonally inundated floodplains extending from the region of Basrah in the east to within 150 km of Baghdad in the west. These wetlands have a great aesthetic, ecological and cultural values. The way of living (artesanal fishery and agriculture), the traditional houses, located in small island between the marshes, and the network of chanels compose a singular landscape unique in the world.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

Civilization was well established in this region by the 4th millennium BC, and a sophisticated irrigation system developed at that time. The Mesopotamian marshes have provided a home for the Ma’dan or Marsh Arabs for at least five thousand years. Their reed houses are built on artificial islands made from layers of mats, reeds and mud, and, until recently, virtually all of their needs were obtained from the surrounding lakes and marshes.

Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:

Reeds are used in the construction of floating islands for villages and, when woven, provide pliable coverings used in housing, fencing and packaging.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
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The draining of Mesopotamian Marshes began in the 1950s with the Central Marshes and gradually accelerated as it affected the two other main marshes until early in the 21st century with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The draining of the marshes was intended at first to reclaim land for agriculture along with oil exploration but later served as a punishment for Shia Arabs in response to the 1991 uprisings in Iraq. The draining of the marshes was largely due to dams, dykes and other diversion structures constructed into Iraq but were exacerbated by upstream dam construction in Syria and Turkey. While the British engineers worked with the Iraqi government, Frank Haigh developed the Haigh Report in 1951. His report recommended a complex of canals, sluices and dykes on the lower portions of both the Tigris and Euphrates. These water control structures could be used to drain marshes therefore creating profitable farmland. In 1953, construction began on the Third River or Main Outfall Drain and later the Saddam River which would drain water from the Central Marsh under the Euphrates and through a canal eventually into the Persian Gulf. Work on the Third River and other draining projects, particularly for the Hawizeh Marsh, quickly progressed in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War in order to afford Iraqis a tactical advantage in the marshes. Part of the Hammar Marshes was also drained in 1985 to clear area for oil exploration. After the 1991 Gulf War, Shia Muslims in southern Iraq rebelled against Saddam Hussein who in turned crushed the rebellion and further accelerated the draining of the Central and Hammar marshes in order to evict Shias that have taken refuge in the marshes. With the exception of the Nasiriyah Drainage Pump Station, the 565 km (351 mi) Third River was completed in 1992 and two other canals were constructed south and nearly parallel to it. One, the Mother of Battles canal, was constructed to divert the flow of the Euphrates south below the Hammar Marsh. Second, the 240 km Loyalty to Leader Canal also known as the Basrah Sweetwater Canal, which originates in the lower Euphrates region, collected water from the terminus of the Gharraf River and diverted it under the Euphrates, away from the Central Marshes and below the Hammar Marshes towards Basrah. The Glory River was also constructed to divert water from the Tigris's southern-flowing distributaries east and parallel along the Tigris until they reached the Euphrates near its confluence with the Tigris at Qurna. By the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the marshes had lost 90% of their size from the previous decades. The Central and Hammar Marshes were nearly drained and only 35% of the Hawizeh Marshes remained. After the invasion, locals destroyed dikes. The combined efforts of the Iraq government, United Nations, U.S. agencies and record precipitation in Turkey helped begin a restoration of the marshes. As of late 2006, 58% of the original marshes had been reinundated. The Nasiriyah Drainage Pump Station was completed in 2009, affording the Third River to be used for agricultural drainage. However, recent drought and continued upstream dam construction and operation in Turkey, Syria and Iran have reduced the marshes to around 30% of their original size by 2009.
Domestic, industrial ensembles, energy related systems:

See point “5.2.4. Man-made elements related to water management”.

Roads, paths, trails, walking/mechanical ways:

Network of waterways.

B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    Lower Mesopotamia is the legendary site of the Garden of Eden, and possesses a number of ruined cities of great antiquity such as Ur and Babylon.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Drained wetlands for agriculture an oil exploration. Artificial islands for human settements.
  • Traditional productive, transportation or storage apparatus persistence: Network of waterways.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: The Marsh Arabs are the primary inhabitants of the Mesopotamian Marshes and are the descendants of ancient Sumerians, as their civilization dates back 5000 years. They live in secluded villages of elaborate reed houses throughout the marshes, often only reached by boat. Estimates of population size have varied largely due to the paucity of official government data and the relative inaccessibility of the region, which left sections of the Ma'dan population unaccounted for in population censuses. One anthropological study put their number at 400,000 in the 1950s. Economic migration between the 1960s and the 1980s had reduced the population to an estimated 250,000 by 1991. In 1993, Human Rights Watch estimated the rural population of the marshlands to be around 200,000, which took into account the huge numbers of army deserters and political opponents seeking shelter in the region after 1991. Today, there may be as few as 20,000 of the original inhabitants remaining, the rest having fled or migrated to Iran and elsewhere, while an estimated minimum of 100,000 have become internally displaced in Iraq. Until the 1950s, the traditional subsistence lifestyle of the Ma'dan had hardly been disturbed.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: See point "5.1.8 Land uses and economical activities".

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
Much the most serious threat to wetlands in Iraq has been the drainage of wetlands and diversion of water supplies for agricultural purposes and, apparently also in recent years, for military reasons. In what the United Nations has declared "one of the world's greatest environmental disasters," over 90% of the marshlands have been desiccated through the combined actions of upstream damming and downstream drainage projects undertaken by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Dam-building on the Euphrates in Turkey and Syria and the increasing utilization of the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates for irrigation in upper and middle Iraq have greatly reduced the extent of seasonal flooding in the wetlands of lower Iraq, and facilitated drainage of large areas for cultivation and the exploitation of oil resources. Within the last few years, major hydrological engineering activities in and around the wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia have resulted in the drying out of vast areas of wetland in the Central Marshes and Haur Al Hammar, and could eventually lead to the disappearance of these systems. The Iraqi Government has said that the reason for the recent hydrological engineering works is to increase agricultural production. However, several international analyses have argued that, whatever the agricultural benefits, the primary purpose is to control dissidents taking refuge in the marshes. The Marsh Arabs, or Ma'dan, who have existed in the marshes for at least 5,000 years, have been particularly affected by these actions. Estimates of population size have varied largely due to the paucity of official government data and the relative inaccessibility of the region, which left sections of the Ma'dan population unaccounted for in population censuses. One anthropological study put their number at 400,000 in the 1950s. Economic migration between the 1960s and the 1980s had reduced the population to an estimated 250,000 by 1991. In 1993, Human Rights Watch estimated the rural population of the marshlands to be around 200,000, which took into account the huge numbers of army deserters and political opponents seeking shelter in the region after 1991. Today, there may be as few as 20,000 of the original inhabitants remaining, the rest having fled or migrated to Iran and elsewhere, while an estimated minimum of 100,000 have become internally displaced in Iraq. Until the 1950s, the traditional subsistence lifestyle of the Ma'dan had hardly been disturbed. In sum, all the hydrological engineering works have resulted in (UNEP, 2001): -destruction of a 5,000 year old cultural heritage that represents the modern world's link to the roots of its civilization, -extinction of several endemic animal and botanical species that depended on the habitat of the marshes, -disappearance of the way-station for migratory birds, with adverse effects potentially spanning the continents of Eurasia and Africa, -saltwater intrusion into the Shatt al-Arab, causing disruption of fisheries in the Persian Gulf, - higher soil salinity in the marshes and adjacent areas, depriving Iraq of much needed agricultural land -considerable disruption to the agricultural and food supply of the whole of southern Iraq, especially in the loss of dairy products, fish, and rice cultivation, - desertification of more than 20,000 square kilometers, and adverse indirect climatic impacts to adjacent land, -displacement of the Ma'dan population of over 300,000, forced to flee the marshes and become refugees in Iran or internally displaced in Iraq.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

-Central Marshes -Haur Al Hammar -Haur Al Hawizeh Marshes

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Architectonical
  • Ecological
  • Ethnological
  • Living heritage
The main values of "The Marshlands of Mesopotamia Cultural Landscape" are: -Aesthetic/Living heritage: These wetlands have a great aesthetic value. The way of living (artesanal fishery and agriculture), the traditional houses, located in small island between the marshes, and the network of chanels compose a singular landscape unique in the world. -Archaeological: Lower Mesopotamia is the legendary site of the Garden of Eden, and possesses a number of ruined cities of great antiquity such as Ur and Babylon. -Architectonical/Living heritage/Ethnological: The typical reed houses of these wetlands are built on artificial islands made from layers of mats, reeds and mud, and, until recently, virtually all of their needs were obtained from the surrounding lakes and marshes. Also, an irrigation system and a network of waterways specficallly adapted to the environment has been developed all around the marshlands. -Botanical/Zoological/Ecological: The extensive marshlands of Mesopotamia represent a unique ecosystem. They play a key role in the intercontinental flyway of migratory birds, support endangered species, and sustain fisheries of the Persian Gulf. There is also a great variety of vegetation. The main intangible value of "The Marshlands of Mesopotamia Cultural Landscape" is social and cultural: The Mesopotamian marshes have provided a home for the Ma'dan or Marsh Arabs for at least five thousand years. The Ma'dan, consist of a number of different Shi'a tribes, including the Bani Asad, Bani Tamim, Albu-Hassan, Albu-Muhammad, and Bani Lam. They keep a traditional way of living and their culture has remained almost unchanged to the present time. Virtually all of their needs were obtained from the surrounding lakes and marshes. The Ma'dan are primarily buffalo herders, fishermen and mat-weavers, although they cultivate a little rice. It is said that historically they nurtured the culture and civilization of the Sumerians who produced the first alphabet and the earliest epics.
Authenticity:
Lower Mesopotamia is the legendary site of the Garden of Eden, and possesses a number of ruined cities of great antiquity such as Ur and Babylon. Civilization was well established in this region by the 4th millennium BC. Nowadays the Marshlands of Mesopotamia has been largely destroyed because of the draining projects. The people who live in the area have seen threatened their traditional way of live, historically adapted to the natural environment.
Universality:
Med-O-Med describes the Universality of The Wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia taking into account the reasons for inclusion that have been already reported in the "Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East" (IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR, 1994) are: la, lc, 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 3a & 3c. The vast permanent and seasonal, fresh to brackish wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia formerly comprised at least 1.5 million hectares of almost contiguous wetland habitat, and were thus the largest area of these wetland types not only in the Middle East but also in the whole of Western Eurasia. The wetlands of lower Mesopotamia play a vital role in the maintenance of biodiversity in the Middle East, primarily because of their large size, the richness of their aquatic vegetation and their isolation from other comparable systems. They are home to two endemic species and an endemic subspecies of mammal, two endemic species and two endemic subspecies of bird, and several endemic species and subspecies of fish. They support substantial numbers of at least seven species of mammals and birds currently listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals, and are of international importance as a staging and wintering area for at least 68 species of waterfowl and nine species of birds of prey. They are also of great cultural significance, having provided a home for the Ma'dan or Marsh Arabs for at least five thousand years.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
Lower Mesopotamia is the legendary site of the Garden of Eden, and possesses a number of ruined cities of great antiquity such as Ur and Babylon. The lifestyle of the Ma'dan, their beliefs, rites, etc, are totally linked to the Islamic culture.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

*** “The Marshlands of Mesopotamia Cultural Landscape” is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Iraq which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1838/ https://www.iucn.org/es/noticias/noticias_por_fecha/?3688/World-Heritage-Nomination-for-the-Marshlands-of-Mesopotamia-in-Iraq http://RAMSAR.wetlands.org/ToolsforParties/WetlandDirectories/ADirectoryofMiddleEastWetlands/tabid/823/Default.aspx http://www.wetlands.org/?TabId=56&mod=1570&articleType=ArticleView&articleId=1891 http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-press-releases/resources/B060601.pdf http://www.iraqfoundation.org/projects_new/edenagain/ http://www.grid.unep.ch/activities/sustainable/tigris/marshlands/ http://edenagain.org/ http://medwet.org/2010/02/eden-marshlands-of-mesopotamia/ http://unami.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?ctl=Details&tabid=2792&mid=5079&ItemID=1266414 http://www.biosciencemag.org -Al-Saadi, H.A. & Al-Mousawi, A.H. (1988). Some notes on the ecology of aquatic plants in the Al-Hammar marsh, Iraq. Vegetation 75 (3): 131-133. -Al-Saadi, H.A., Antoine, S.E. & Nurul-Islam, A.K.M. (1981). Limnological investigation in Al-Hammara marsh area in southern Iraq. Nova-Hedwigia 35 (1): 157-166. -Al-Saboonchi et al. (1982 & 1986). Studies of seasonal variation in the quality and quantity of phytoplankton and zooplankton in Qurna Marshes. -Curtis, J. R and Hussain, N. A. (2006). Restoring the Garden of Eden: An Ecological Assessment of the Marshes of Iraq. -Harper, N. (2007). Marsh Arabs of Iraq. Sprol. Retrieved 7 August 2010. -Mbar. (1985). An account of the vegetation of the marshes of southern Iraq has been published in Arabic by the University of Basrah. -Maitby. (1994). Environmental and Ecological Study of the Marshlands of Mesopotamia. -Mhaisen et al. (1990). Studies on the parasites of fish and waterbirds. -Muir, J. (2009). Iraq marshes face grave new threat. BBC News. Retrieved 7 August 2010. -Rojas-Burke, J. (2003). Iraq Marsh arabs, modern sumerians. Simply Sharing. Retrieved 7 August 2010. -Salman et al. (1990). studies on the abundance and seasonal migrations of the commercial penaeid shrimp Metapenaeus affinis. -Scott, D. A. (1994). Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East. ISBN: 2831702704. IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR. -UNEP. (2010). UNEP project to help manage and restore the Iraqi Marshlands. Iraqi Marshlands Observation System (IMOS). -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy.

Practical Information:
Additional technical information on the status of the Mesopotamian Marshlands can be found in the United Nations Environmental Program report at http://www.grid.unep.ch/activities/sustainable/tigris/marshlands/. For project information and more, please visit the Eden Again and Nature Iraq websites. For more information on the EDEN AGAIN project, you can contact the project director, Dr. Suzie Alwash, at suzie@alwash.net.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.