The Mesopotamian Marshes from Disintegration to Restoration

The excessive development of dams and drainage schemes over the past few decades have led to one of the gravest environmental disasters world-wide, the disintegration of the Mesopotamian marshlands that are now largely replaced by salt-encrusted deserts. Only throughout the past year or so, that signs of environmental recovery have been locally observed. We are conducting an integrated approach to provide a better understanding of the temporal landcover and landuse changes (LCLUC) that occurred over the Mesopotamian marshes in response to the reduced fresh water supply induced by damming and water diversion practices over the past four decades and to monitor the ongoing recovery as well. Archival remote sensing data and GIS applications are being used to assess and monitor LCLUC. An ultimate goal of this project is to document the spatial and temporal variations in LCLUC over the entire Mesopotamian marshes over the past four decades and throughout the duration of the project as well (2004-2006).

Satellite snapshots of a 9,000 square kilometer area of the Al Hammar marshes demonstrates the impact of large engineering projects on the marshlands. Processed temporal satellite data (Right: 1977, Center: 1992, Left: 2002) show a network of canals that crosscuts the marshes and was used to drain it. A considerable portion of the drained marshes have become salinized land. These areas appear in shades of blue and black on the 1977 image and as bright areas on the 2002 image. Less than 5 percent of the dried marshlands have been cultivated; the latter appear as green rectangular areas. [Geotimes Oct, 2003; page 27]



Ahmad Al-Dousari – Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR)
Dr. Sabbar Abdullah Salih Al-Kaisy, University of Tikrit.
Dr. Lifta Salman Kadem, University of Tikrit.

Funded by: NSF