The Iraqi government is committed to keeping the Mesopotamian Marshes on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located in the southern part of the country, the marshes were added to UNESCO’s list in July 2016. Previously listed Iraqi World Heritage sites are the city of Ashur, the city of Hatra, the Erbil Citadel and the city of Samarra.
Although the Iraqi parliament voted to put an end to encroachments against the marshes May 14, many fear the possibility of Iraq’s losing its position on the World Heritage List and being denied the international recognition that would have been of great benefit for the country, especially since previously agreed-upon service and construction programs were not established.
First off, there are concerns about the Water Resources Ministry’s continuing to build settlement islands in the Chibayish marshes, south of Dhi Qar, which UNESCO considers to be a clear violation of the conditions the marshes need to meet in order to stay on the World Heritage List.
In this context, Ajial al-Musawi, the chairman of the Committee on Tourism and Antiquities in Dhi Qar’s provincial council, told Al-Monitor over the phone that UNESCO’s objection is to the nature of the mechanisms used in building these islands in the marshes since they pose a direct threat to biodiversity in the area.
Musawi said, “The government’s reluctance to implement the programs it promised worries us, and we fear the marshes would lose the chance to join the World Heritage List for good, especially since a UNESCO delegation is scheduled to visit us in the coming months.”