Iraqis are seeking protection from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee for their southern marshes. But the issue is not just environmental; it’s also about international water politics.
When the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets this July in Istanbul, Iraqis are hoping that, at long last, their southern marshes will make it onto the World Heritage List, conferring upon them some important protections. A number of historic sites in Iraq are also up for consideration.
The World Heritage Committee meeting, which occurs annually, involves a meeting of representatives from 21 countries, who discuss finances and procedures as well as potential new world heritage sites and the state of existing ones.
Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has wanted to see the southern marshes on this UNESCO list since 2013 and has been actively lobbying members of the Committee to advance the cause. Last year a delegation came to Iraq to visit the marshes and assess them.
The marshes, estimated to cover around 20,000 square kilometres, incorporate a unique wetlands ecosystem, in the middle of a desert, lying between the southern cities of Basra, Amarah and the Suq Al Shuyoukh district.