May 7

Past Event

The Iraqi Marshlands: Can They Be Saved?

Event Materials


One of the legacies of Saddam Hussein's regime is the near destruction of the Iraqi marshlands along the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers, home to the 5000-year "Marsh Arab" civilization and site of vast oil deposits. Baghdad coupled massive engineering projects to drain water from the marshes with the shelling and burning of villages, the poisoning of fishing grounds, and the assassination and abduction of local leaders. Untold numbers of "Marsh Arabs" perished, and close to 200,000 were forcibly displaced. The environment suffered severe damage.

A panel of experts will discuss the human and ecological impact of this onslaught and address several questions: Can all or part of the marshes be restored? Why is it important to do so for health, hydrological, and environmental reasons? What are the prospects for the return of the displaced and for setting up a compensation scheme? Should criminal responsibility be established? What will the impact of oil exploration be on the future of the Marshlands?

Event Agenda

  • Introduction

    • Strobe Talbott

      President, The Brookings Institution

  • Moderators

    • (Special Guest) Andrew Natsios

      Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development

    • The Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

      Member, European Parliament

  • Panelists

    • Mohamed Jama

      Deputy Regional Director of the World Health Organization, Eastern Mediterranean Region

    • Peter Clark

      Chief Executive Officer, Amar International Charitable Foundation; Co-editor, The Iraqi Marshlands: A Human and Environmental Study (2002)

    • Peter Galbraith

      Professor, National War College; Former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia; Former Iraq Expert, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    • Thomas Naff

      Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Pennsylvania

    • Victor Tanner

      Consultant on Humanitarian Issues; Faculty Member, Johns Hopkins SAIS; Co-author, The Internally Displaced People of Iraq (Brookings report, 2002)


May 7, 2003

2:30 PM - 4:30 PM EDT

Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.


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