Environmental NGOs in Iraq
Nature Iraq has it's latest newsletter up on the Eden Again Website. Many positive developments are reported including the release of an Interim master plan for restoration and management of the southern marshes by the New Eden Group (A collaboration of Nature Iraq and the Italian Ministry of Environment and Territory). This document is the culmination of years of work studying every salient aspect of the marshes from Biodiversity to Hydrology and Economic impacts. The document will be presented to the Iraqi government to inform future decisions on the marshes. As the management and responsibility for the marshes and water resources transition to the Iraqi government there is a need to keep the benefits of marsh restoration in the forefront.
Also reported was an Regional Environmental Roundtable which brought together NGOs from Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon in September. They discussed the need for training in a number of areas to build their capacity to carry out their respective projects. This is where I think more International Environmental Groups and Educational Institutions can have a real positive impact. I perceive some prominent groups only want to support development in Iraq in the theoretical, not practical sense. Perhaps there is an attitude that participating in Iraq would somehow add legitimacy to the military/political conflict which they opposed so strenuously. If this is true, it is morally bankrupt thinking. Making positive change and building civil society should take primacy over political posturing. I encourage both individuals and organizations to contribute as they can. Iraq Nature counts 35 environmental NGOs in Iraq!
The areas of need are:
1. Strategic Planning
2. Administrative and Management Skills
3. Capacity building for environmental impact assessments/evaluations
4. Advocacy Skills
Ideally, training should happen locally, since it allows the greatest number of people to participate. Several workshops have been held regionally, such as in Jordan or Syria.
Finally a field report from the Canada-Iraq Marshland Initiative is written up in the Nature Iraq Newsletter. Ecological surveys of major reflooded areas have been conducted by 6 teams, comprising 44 students and technical advisors from Central and Southern Iraq. Major groups surveyed include phytoplankton, zooplankton, benthic invertebrates, plants, fish and birds. Early indications are that some reflooded areas are showing signs of full recovery. Nearly all the rare and endangered birds have been found and some have been found breeding. I've heard through other channels that African Darter, Sacred Ibis, Goliath Heron and Basra Reed Warbler have all been seen.
I put up a new page on the Iraq Fauna Wiki to brainstorm on ideas to support Iraqi organizations working on environmental issues.