Iraq's 'Garden of Eden' Added to Prestigious List

Wetlands of southern Iraq are one of 12 new UNESCO world heritage sites
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2016 6:43 PM CDT
Updated Jul 19, 2016 6:50 PM CDT
Iraq's 'Garden of Eden' Added to Prestigious List
In this photo taken Friday, March 27, 2009, a fisherman navigates his boat in Hor al-Hammar in southern Iraq.   (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, vast and remote wetlands along the border with Iran in southern Iraq that are considered to be the biblical "Garden of Eden" have just been named a UNESCO world heritage site, the United Nations reports. Among the 12 new sites added to the list at this year's meeting in Istanbul—which CNN reports was cut short due to the UN security protocol that went into effect following the recent coup attempt in Turkey—are the Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Brazil, the Antigua Naval Dockyard and Related Archaeological Sites in Antigua and Barbuda, and the Khangchendzonga National Park in India. The UN's preservation list now consists of 1,052 sites notable for their "outstanding universal value," a prestigious list UNESCO has been adding to since 1978.

Formerly known as the Ahwar of Southern Iraq, the marshlands of Mesopotamia actually comprise seven sub-sites—four wetland marsh areas and three archaeological sites that date back to the 3rd and 4th millennium BC. In spite of the unforgivingly hot and arid climate, the marshlands boast one of the largest inland delta systems in the world, reports the BBC, and are home to bird species that include the ibis as well as spawning grounds for many Gulf fisheries. Reuters reports that after Saddam Hussein accused the region's Marsh Arabs of treachery during the war with Iran in the 1980s, he intentionally dammed and drained the region, shrinking it from 3,500 square miles to just less than 300 square miles by 2002. Great conservation efforts have helped re-establish the area, but it is still considered to be on the brink as well as plagued by drug and weapons smuggling. (Donald Trump recently seemed to praise Hussein.)

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