Japan to invite officials from Iraq to marshland conservation training program

Visiting Iraqi officials on Wednesday participated in an environmental program designed to boost efforts to restore the country's fabled marshlands, Japan 's Foreign Ministry said.

The program runs from March 15-24 and will involve lectures on marsh preservation and a visit to a water purification plant in western Japan , the ministry said in a statement.

Iraqi officials including those from the Ministries of Environment, Water Resources and Agriculture are attending the program, hosted by Japan 's International Cooperation Agency, the statement said.

Considered by some as the original biblical "Garden of Eden," Iraq 's fabled marshlands all but vanished after more than a decade of decline.

The regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein drained much of the Mesopotamian waters between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the 1990s to punish marsh inhabitants who supported a Shiite rebellion after the 1991 Gulf War.

Of the almost 9,300 square kilometers (3,600 square miles) of marshes in 1970, the area shrank by 90 percent to 780 square kilometers (300 square miles) by 2002.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is trying to restore agriculture in the area, while the Italian government is also working to reverse the growth of the region's desert following the marsh drainage.

New satellite imagery now shows a rapid increase in water and vegetation cover, with the marshes rebounding to about 37 percent of their 1970 reach.

In November, the Iraqi government reached an agreement with several donor countries, including the United States , Canada , Italy and Japan , to coordinate activities related to marshland preservation, reports the AP.


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