Once-vast marshlands being restored in Iraq

The marshlands of Iraq, drained nearly dry by Saddam Hussein, are making a surprisingly robust comeback. Seen by some as the inspiration for the biblical Garden of Eden, the lush wetlands once covered nearly 3,600 square miles near the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Mid-century drainage projects took a toll, but the marshes were primarily destroyed by Hussein — and that was the least of his retaliation against the local Marsh Arabs, who supported a Shiite Muslim rebellion following the 1991 Gulf War. Locals began breaching the dikes after Hussein’s government fell in 2003, and about 37 percent of the area has been reflooded — a “phenomenal rate,” according the United Nations. Japan is funding an $11 million project to provide clean drinking water and sanitation to about 100,000 Iraqis who still live in the marsh area, help renew the marshes, and train 250 Iraqis in wetlands management.