By Lara Sorokanich
Iraq decreed its first official national park last week, after years of planning and bargaining within its governmental council. The new title will help protect the central marshes of Iraq, which are currently threatened by the country’s increasing urbanization and development.
One integral part of the legislation’s passing was Nature Iraq, an environmental group which was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize earlier this year for their work in Iraq’s marshlands. The group played a key role in developing the park’s management plans—along with the Ministries of Water Resources and Environment and the National Park Committee—and has also worked for several years to reflood the area’s drained marshes.
Azzam Alwash is the founder and president of the Board of Directors of Nature Iraq, and says the naming of a national park means a lot more for Iraq than just the recreational uses we associate with parks in the United States and Europe.
For one, the park will protect Iraqi marshlands, which Alwash calls “the cradle of civilization.” Noting that Iraq is believed to be the birthplace of agriculture, writing, monotheism, the wheel, and countless other human developments, he said:
“Preservation of this park means preservation of our link to our forefathers. Everyone in the world, in the West and the Middle East, are descended from this land.”
Alwash, who was born in Iraq and educated in the United States, also believes this recent legislation is a step in the right direction for Iraq’s environmental future as a whole. More....