EDEN IN IRAQ
Ecological and Cultural Restoration through Art, Design, and Environmental Science in the South Iraq Marshes
Growing Beauty with the 7000 year old Marsh Arab Culture
Eden in Iraq is a land art project in the wetlands of southern Iraq using imagery and wastewater to create a garden to transform centuries of conflict into art. It will bring an effective, ecological treatment system for sewage and water recycling into a region which lacks such basic hygiene.
In 1991 Saddam Hussein drained the immense wetlands near the likely site of the Garden of Eden, turning it into a desert. The Marsh Arabs who were forced to leave have been returning to re-green and restore the marshes with the help of the Nature Iraq, an Iraqi NGO located in El-Chibaish, the largest Marsh Arab city in the region. Nature Iraq has invited artist Meridel Rubenstein and environmental engineer Dr. Mark Nelson, with landscape architect, Catherine Page Harris, to create an art/ecological work that will transform human waste into a garden, protecting the health of the local people and the rivers and marshes which sustain them. The project is also supported by the Institute of Ecotechnics .
The restoration of the priceless and historic Mesopotamian wetlands in southern Iraq is well underway. The work has been spearheaded by Dr. Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American engineer, founder of the Eden Again Project and Nature Iraq, with assistance from the Iraqi Government, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Italian Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea, and the United Nations Environment Program. The area for millennia was home to the famed “Marsh Arabs” whose reed houses and reed boats, made from wetland reeds growing in the area made the region unique culturally. The area was heavily damaged during the decade-long Iran-Iraq war when sections were bombed and drained. After the uprising by the local peoples of the region against Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s, the Iraqi government in retaliation diverted the rivers and dried out most of the area, and forced most of the local population to move away. More recently, river flow has been restored and a good percentage of the wetland area is recovering, with an influx of Marsh Arabs back to their original homeland.
Nature Iraq is an Iraqi NGO (www.natureiraq.org) working on preservation of important ecological regions and distinctive cultures in Iraq. They have proposed the southern marsh area as the country’s first, the Mesopotamian National Park. The Institute of Ecotechnics (UK and US), founded in 1973, has been working on the theory and practice of integrating people, economics, technologies in sustainable relationships to our biosphere. IE holds conferences and workshops and consults to innovative projects around the world which serve as demonstrations of the ecotechnic approach.
Mark Nelson, PhD is an Environmental Engineer, received his PhD with Prof. H.T. Odum at the
University of Florida Center for Wetlands. Director Institute of Ecotechnics, Santa Fe,NM , a member of the first biospherian crew in Biosphere 2)
past 15 years has been working globally on constructed wetland applications.
Catherine Page Harris, Assistant Professor of Art and Ecology, UNM Dept. Art and Art History,
is a landscape architect. Co-leader of Land Arts of the American West. Her current work focuses on interactions between ecological flows and human habitation. She creates mixed media installations and landscapes. Master of Landscape Architecture, UC Berkeley; Master of Fine Arts, Stanford University. http://cargocollective.com/landwork
Well, I'm really proud to annunce that I'm part this project by a Tier One Research grant from Nanyang Technological Unverisity. Stay tuned form upcoming news!!!