The Mesopotamian Marshes or Iraqi Marshes are a wetland area located in southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran and Kuwait. Historically the marshlands, mainly composed of the separate but adjacent Central, Hawizeh and Hammar Marshes, used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of Western Eurasia. It is a rare aquatic landscape in the desert, providing habitat for the Marsh Arabs and important populations of wildlife. Draining of portions of the marshes began in the 1950s and continued through the 1970s to reclaim land for agriculture and oil exploration. However, in the late 1980s and 1990s, during the presidency of Saddam Hussein, this work was expanded and accelerated to evict Shia Muslims from the marshes. Before 2003, the marshes were drained to 10% of their original size. After the fall of Hussein's regime in 2003, the marshes have partially recovered but drought along with upstream dam construction and operation in Turkey, Syria and Iran have hindered the process. Since 2016 the mesopotamian marshes are listed as an UNESCO Heritage Site.
In the 4th millennium BCE, 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 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 large quantity of wild wheat and pulse species that were nutritious and easy to domesticate.
The Marsh Arabs are the primary inhabitants of the Mesopotamian Marshes and are theorized by some to be 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. Fish, rice cultivation, water buffalo and other resources are also used in their daily lives. In the 1950s, there were an estimated 500,000 Marsh Arabs. This population shrank to about 20,000 following the draining and Saddam's violent reprisals, and between 80,000 and 120,000 fled to neighboring Iran. Following the 2003 Iraq invasion, Marsh Arabs have begun to return to the marshes.
As their name suggests, the Mesopotamian Marshes are located in the larger region which used to be called Mesopotamia. Modern day Mesopotamia is now occupied by 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 of 20,000 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 meander, 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.
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.
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 has an area of 120 km (75 mi) by 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, revealing islands that are used for agriculture.
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-Musharrah and Al-Kahla 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 drained by the Al-Kassarah. This river plays a critical role in maintaining the Al-Hawizeh marshes as a flow-through system and preventing it from becoming a closed saline basin.
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.
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.
From a high of around 75 percent restored in 2008, the wetlands receded to 58 percent of their average pre-drained level by spring 2015. Meanwhile, as the water level fell, salinity increased to 15,000 parts per million in some areas, up from 300 to 500 ppm in the 1980s. "When the river water levels were high, the low-saline Tigris washed over the marshes, cleansed them, and pushed the salty residue into the saltier Euphrates, which flows along the western edge. But now the Tigris is so low that the Euphrates provides most of the water in the marshes." 
The marshes are home to 40 species of bird and several species of fish. It demarcates a range limit for a number of bird species. Flamingos, pelicans and herons inhabit the marshes. The marshes were once home to a large number of birds and the stopover for many other migratory birds 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 Bunn's short-tailed 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.
Considerable confusion has existed relating to the status of the Eurasian otter and the endemic maxwelli subspecies of the smooth-coated otter in the region, but recent surveys have confirmed that both still survive.
Geographic Location: Middle East: Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait
Ad Dayr (الدير ) is a town of Basrah Governorate in southern Iraq, on the west bank of the Shatt Al-Arab River. The town has one of the few bridges over the Shatt Al-Arab. raq
The area is close to the Mesopotamian Marshes(Hammar Marshes), and has traditionally been home to many Marsh Arabs.
The town has two mosques and a girls school and a holy shrine of Solomon.
The area suffered greatly during the Iran–Iraq War, during which it was a major battlefield, and again after the 1991 Iraqi uprising.African darter
The African darter (Anhinga rufa), sometimes called the snakebird, is a water bird of sub-Saharan Africa and Iraq.Ahwar of Southern Iraq
The Ahwar of Southern Iraq: Refuge of Biodiversity and the Relict Landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in south Iraq.
The Ahwar currently consists of seven sites, including three cities of Sumerian origin and four wetland areas of the Mesopotamian Marshes:
East Hammar Marshes
West Hammar Marshes
Uruk Archaeological City
Ur Archaeological City
Tell Eridu Archaeological SiteAl-Chibayish District
Al-Chibayish District is a district of the Dhi Qar Governorate, Iraq, located to the east of Nasiriyah and northwest of Basra Governorate. The district capital is Al-Chibayish. The district's geography is dominated by the Hammar Marshes, a subset of the Mesopotamian Marshes, and by the Euphrates River that feeds the marshes.Ash Shabaziyah, Iraq
Ash Shabaziyah, Iraq is a village of Basrah Governorate in southern Iraq located on the west bank of the Shatt Al-Arab River between the Shatt al Arab and Hamma marshes.The town has a primary school and at least 3 mosques.
The area is close to the Mesopotamian Marshes(Hammar Marshes), and has traditionally been home to many Marsh Arabs.
The topography if flat with a elevation of 6 meters above sea level., and the climate is arid.The area suffered greatly during the Iran–Iraq War, during which it was a major battlefield, and again after the 1991 Iraqi uprising.Binni
The binni (Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi) is a species of cyprinid fish endemic to the Tigris-Euphrates river system. This barbel is the only member in its genus, but was included in the "wastebasket genus" Barbus by earlier authors. It may have declined notably in recent times due to habitat destruction.
The binni is a deep-bodied dark silvery barbel. The large scales bear parallel stripes; the fins are comparatively small. Full-grown specimens may reach a length of almost half a meter and weigh 800 grams or more, but as most individuals encountered are by far smaller, it seems to take some time to grow to such good size. Sexes are probably almost identical, though it may be notable that a male was among the largest recorded specimens (in many cyprinids females are larger than males). Not much is known about its ecology, but like similar relatives it is believed to be benthopelagic and feed on small animals and waterplants.Known in the local Iraqi Arabic dialect as binni or bunni, this fish is valued highly by the Marsh Arabs. Their fishermen traditionally employ an unusual technique of combined spearfishing and Datura poison-fishing to catch it; until recently net-fishing was mostly restricted to the Berbera tribe and held in low esteem. Since the 1960s however, large-scale fisheries have also been developed; once of prime importance throughout Iraq, the marshland fish stocks presumably declined notably following the draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes.Umm al Binni lake in Maysan Governorate, Iraq, was named after this species. Now mostly dried-up following the draining of the Central Marshes, its name attests to the former abundance of this fish and possible use as spawning ground (Umm is Arabic for "mother", but does not necessarily imply procreation). The lake is of interest as a possible impact crater mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh.Dhi Qar Governorate
Dhi Qar Governorate (Arabic: ذي قار, translit. Dhī Qār) is a governorate in southern Iraq. The provincial capital is Nasiriyah. Prior to 1976 the governorate was known as Muntafiq Governorate. Dhi Qar was the heartland of the ancient Iraqi civilization of Sumer, and includes the ruins of Ur, Eridu, Lagash, Larsa, Girsu, Umma, and Bad-tibira. The southern area of the governorate is covered by Mesopotamian Marshes.Draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes
The draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes occurred in Iraq and to a smaller degree in Iran between the 1950s and 1990s to clear large areas of the marshes in the Tigris-Euphrates river system. Formerly covering an area of around 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi), the main sub-marshes, the Hawizeh, Central, and Hammar marshes and all three were drained at different times for different reasons.
The draining of the marshes was undertaken primarily for political ends, namely to force the Ma'dan people, or Marsh Arabs, out of the area through water diversion tactics and to punish them for their role in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein's government. However, the government's stated reasoning was to reclaim land for agriculture and exterminate a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The displacement of more than 200,000 of the Ma'dan and the associated state-sponsored campaign of violence against them has led the United States and others to describe the draining of the marshes as genocide or ethnic cleansing.The draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes has been described by the United Nations as a "tragic human and environmental catastrophe" on par with the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and by other observers as one of the worst environmental disasters of the 20th century.Glory River
The Glory River (Nahar al-Aaz), Glory Canal or Prosperity Canal is a shallow canal in Iraq about two kilometers wide built by Saddam Hussein in 1993 to redirect water flowing from the Tigris river into the Euphrates, near their confluence at the Shatt al-Arab. It helped cause an environmental and humanitarian disaster since it diverted natural water flow from the Central Marshes and effectively converted much of the wetlands into a desert.After the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein aggressively revived a program to divert the flow of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers away from the marshes in retribution for a failed Shia uprising in 1991. Draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes directly affected the Marsh Arabs, forcing them to abandon the settlements in the region. Since 2003, the marshland ecoregion has recovered substantially with the breaching of dikes by local communities.Hammar Marshes
The Hammar Marshes (Arabic: هور الحمار) are a large wetland complex in southeastern Iraq that are part of the Mesopotamian Marshes in the Tigris–Euphrates river system. Historically, the Hammar Marshes extended up to 4,500 km2 (1,700 sq mi) during seasonal floods. They were destroyed during the 1990s by large-scale drainage, dam and dike construction projects. Since 2003, they are recovering following reflooding and destruction of dams.Hawizeh Marshes
The Hawizeh Marshes are a complex of marshes that straddle the Iraq and Iran border. The marshes are fed by two branches of the Tigris River (the Al-Musharrah and Al-Kahla) in Iraq and Karkheh River in Iran. The Hawizeh marsh is critical to the survival of the Central and Hammar marshes, which also make up the Mesopotamian Marshes, because they are a refuge for species that may recolonize or reproduce in the other marshlands. The Hawizeh Marshes are drained by the Al-Kassarah. This river plays a critical role in maintaining the marshes as a flow-through system and preventing it from becoming a closed saline basin.
The Hawizeh Marshes have been populated for more than 5,000 years. The Hawizeh Marshes are by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq and the Karkhen River in present-day Iran. The Marsh Arabs live in Iraq and Hawizeh people live in Iran. From the time of the Sumerians and Babylonians the people used the marshes as a place to live.In the south west of Iran and the south east of Iraq, the Hawizeh and Hammar Marshes are made up of many smalls cities. These cities in the marshes are part of both countries with no border that separates them. So the people can move between Iraq marshes and Iran by the small boats. The city of Marshes were built on water. The people who live there have very simple lives. They make their houses of the reeds of the water without, electricity or cars and they don’t have an education they have just simple lives. The population depends on nature. They fish, hunt, cultivate and breed buffalo. The people use small boats called Al-Mshhove to move.The area where the fresh waters gets to the marshes is far away from the cities. The marshes make a safe home for thousands of migrant animals and birds like “wild squirrels, white eagle, hawks, brown dukes and squirrels every year. So it is a safe home to a lot different kinds of migrant animals who come to raise their young there.The marshes started a long time ago. Around 5,000 years ago, the marshes started by the great rivers Tigris and Euphrates by collision impact. These rivers flooded the land to create the marshes and started a new ecosystem with new animals, birds, fish and plants. That made a great change in that time to original Sumerians and Babylonians who lived there. They lived off the marshes by fishing, hunting and planting. The people came to live in the marshes also, but time changed some of the people’s ideas and beliefs. With the break between the Shia and Mandaean forms of religion, the Shia Muslims came to dominate in the marshes. Some ideas of the original people changed because of this religion and the other ideas remained from the Sumerians. These ideas include fantastic stories about ghosts, curses and extraterrestrials. In 1990-1992 when the Iraq government decided to dry the marshes because they thought an armed group lived there, the population left. After the government decided to dry the water, some of them moved to the cities and the others moved to Iran. After the war in 2003 the Iraqi government open the water the marcher people returned to the marshes. Mashers are now true people of marshes around 5,000 in all of Iran and Iraq and the people like the all different kind of birds what came to marshes they are from different religion like Shia Islam, Mandaeism they have a different ceremony of marriage or believe the life together from long time ago and share the marshes.Madaniyah, Iraq
Madaniyah, Iraq is a small village of Basrah Governorate, on the west bank of the Shatt Al-Arab River in southern Iraq. It is adjacent to the town of Ad Dayr and is located at 30.802088, 47.574837.Ad Dayr (الدير ) The town has one of the few bridges over the Shatt Al-Arab. Iraq.
The area is also close to the Mesopotamian Marshes(Hammar Marshes), and has traditionally been home to many Marsh Arabs.
The town has two mosques and girls school.
The area suffered greatly during the Iran–Iraq War, during which it was a major battlefield, and again after the 1991 Iraqi uprising.Mashoof
A mashoof (Arabic: مشحوفف), also transliterated mashuf, is a long and narrow canoe traditionally used on the marshes and rivers of southern Iraq. It was widely used by the Marsh Arabs, or Maʻdān (معدان), as a fishing boat, water taxi, and primary means of transportation for people and goods. The mashoof's skinniness makes it an ideal vessel for navigating between the reeds and grasses of the Mesopotamian Marshes.Traditional mashoof building is close to extinction in modern Iraq, as a result of the draining of the Iraqi Marshes and the rise of gas-powered skiffs, which can carry heavier loads than a mashoof. Less than 50 mashoof manufacturers are left in southern Iraq, located mainly in the cities of Basra, Hillah and Kufa. However, as the marshes have become re-flooded, mashoof use has slowly begun to return. Mashoof racing, particularly by women, has also returned to the marshes.Qaryat Nasr, Iraq
Qaryat Nasr (نصر ) is a town of Basrah Governorate in southern Iraq, on the west bank of the Shatt Al-Arab River.
Qaryat Nasr, Iraq is located at 30.78n and 47.55e.The town has one of the few bridges over the Shatt Al-Arab. There is a Muslim shrine in the village.
The area is close to the Mesopotamian Marshes(Hammar Marshes), and has traditionally been home to many Marsh Arabs.
The area suffered greatly during the Iran–Iraq War, during which it was a major battlefield, and again after the 1991 Iraqi uprising.Setting pole
A setting pole is a pole, handled by a single individual, made to move boats by pushing the craft in the desired direction. Because it is a pushing tool, it is generally used from the stern (back) of the craft.
A setting pole is usually made of ash, or a similar resilient wood, and is capped on one or both ends with metal to withstand the repeated pushing against the bottom and rocks, and to help the end of the pole sink to the bottom more quickly. It can range in length from eight feet (2.5 metres), to over eighteen feet (5.5 metres).Setting poles were used widely on the rivers of the 18th and 19th century American West to propel keelboats. The 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition relied on setting poles to propel their barge on the Missouri River. They brought six purpose-built setting poles, each eighteen feet long and capped with iron on the bottom, though they ended up losing some and replacing them with dog-travois poles taken from an abandoned Native American camp.Setting poles are also used widely on the Mesopotamian Marshes to propel the mashoof canoes used by the Marsh Arabs. These poles are called marda (مُرْدِيّ in Literary Arabic) and are 10-13 feet (3-4 meters) long and made from wood and sturdy reeds.
The best known form of setting pole is the single-ended punt pole used in Oxford and Cambridge. A setting pole may also be used in river canoeing for navigating portions of river where the water is too shallow for a paddle to create thrust, or where the desired direction of travel is opposite a current moving fast enough to make paddling inefficient. Setting poles are also useful for fending off drifting logs and negotiating sandbars, shoals, and rocks.Shafi, Iraq
Shafi (الشافي ) is a town of Basrah Governorate in southern Iraq, on the west bank of the Shatt Al-Arab River.Shafi is located at Geographic co-ordinates 34°18'45North and 44°17'17East.
The area is close to the Mesopotamian Marshes(Hammar Marshes), and has traditionally been home to many Marsh Arabs. The topography is flat and the climate arid.
The Tigris and Euphrates, with their tributaries, form a major river system in Western Asia. From sources originating in eastern Turkey, they flow by/through Syria through Iraq into the Persian Gulf. The system is part of the Palearctic Tigris–Euphrates ecoregion, which includes Iraq and parts of Turkey, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan.
From their sources and upper courses in the mountains of eastern Anatolia, the rivers descend through valleys and gorges to the uplands of Syria and northern Iraq and then to the alluvial plain of central Iraq. The rivers flow in a south-easterly direction through the central plain and combine at Al-Qurnah to form the Shatt al-Arab and discharge into the Persian Gulf.The region has historical importance as part of the Fertile Crescent region, in which civilization is believed to have first emerged.Wasit Governorate
Wasit Governorate (Arabic: واسط, translit. Wāsit) is a governorate in eastern Iraq, south-east of Baghdad and bordering Iran. Prior to 1976 it was known as Kut Province. Major cities include the capital Al Kut, Al-Hai and Al-Suwaira. The governorate contains the Mesopotamian Marshes of Shuwayja, Al-Attariyah, and Hor Aldelmj. Its name comes from the Arabic word meaning "middle," as the former city of Wasit lay along the Tigris about midway between Baghdad and Basra. Wasit city was abandoned after the Tigris shifted course.Water supply terrorism
Water supply terrorism involves intentional sabotage to a water supply system, through chemical or biological warfare or infrastructural sabotage. Throughout military history and the history of terrorism, water supply
attacks have been perpetrated by political groups, intending to scare, cause death, or drought.
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