Azzam Alwash wins Goldman prize for his part in restoring Iraq's ecological marsh gems to much of their former glory



The Guardian write (in summary): Azzam Alwash wins Goldman prize: 'Saddam's marsh drainage project was war by other means'. Alwash is being honoured with the 'green oscar' for his part in restoring Iraq's ecological gems to much of their former glory

The vast Mesoptomian marshes in southern Iraq were said to be the site of the original Garden of Eden. On their fringes have risen and fallen 12,000 years of Sumerian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Persian and Arab civilisations. Organised farming is thought to have begun here, as did the first cities and writing. But when Iraqi-born engineer Azzam Alwash returned in 2003 after 25 years away, he found a devastated land. Instead of the vast and unique freshwater world, all that remained was an arid, polluted, dried-out wilderness where reeds did not grow, no one lived and nothing was farmed.

Saddam Hussein had drained thousands of square kilometres of the marshland that had once been fed by the rivers Tigris and Euphrates in an effort to punish the people who lived there. It was an ecological and cultural disaster that the UN ranked alongside the destruction of the Aral sea or the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.

On his return, he set up Nature Iraq as an NGO to focus on the restoration of the marshes and he offered his technical skills to tear down the giant embankments to flood the land. The ecological change was almost instantaneous. Within six months, weeds were growing and birds were coming back. By last month, around 3,500 sq km had been restored as marshland.

His mission now is to bring together the governments of Syria, Turkey and Iraq to better manage better the rivers. "It seems impossible, but we have shown we can make a start."


Restoration of the rivers - BBC audio slideshow


View audio slideshow

BBC says 'Good management of waterways is an essential part of the fight against some of the extreme weather the UK has suffered in past years. In 2012 the country saw record levels of rainfall in some areas with about 8,000 homes flooded, and yet earlier in the year hosepipe bans followed a period of drought.'

Meteorologists are warning that extremes of weather may increase as global temperatures slowly rise, and the Environment Agency has pointed out that modelling suggests that a changing climate could reduce some summer river flows by up to 80% in the next 40 years.

LIsten to the slie show to hear Dr Dylan Bright, of the Westcountry Rivers Trust, talking about a three-year, £4m project of restoration work on river catchments across the South West of England and the ways in which this can help stabilise the country's water supply.

A beeline across the green roofs of the City of London


A short video of the roofscape of London from Dusty Gedge. He writes that over the last 15 years green roofs have started to flourish making a bumblebees imaginary journey through the City one of plenty. Pollination sources are starting to abound, nectar can be harvested. Whilst at the same time all these roofs will help London to adapt to Climate Change - reducing the impact of flash storms, cooling the city, reducing air pollution and making it a better place for humans too.


Last chance to book our Network event at the 8th European Conference on Ecological Restoration


The on-line programme is available here.

Further information is available on the conference website

RESTORE network event is from 8:30 - 10:15 on Friday the 14th of September

University of South Bohemia, České Budějovice, Czech Republic

This 8th Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration – Europe (SER) will provide an opportunity to exchange knowledge and build new potential cooperation.

The main theme is ‘Near-natural restoration’, and the aim is to present and discuss restoration ecology as a scientific discipline and in practice. It will cover restoration of a range of habitat types including wetlands, fresh water ecosystems and marine and coastal ecosystems.

Further information is available on the conference website