Photos: Iraq’s vast marshes, reborn after Saddam’s fall, in peril again

In the southern wetlands of Iraq- a lush remnant of the cradle of civilization , the marshes were reborn after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein, but now are imperiled again by government mismanagement and new upstream projects.

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST 10 Photos
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A young man drives a boat through towering reeds in the marsh of Chabaish, Iraq. The marshes, a lush remnant of the cradle of civilization, were reborn after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein when residents dismantled dams he had built a decade earlier to drain the area in order root out Shiite rebels. (Susannah George / AP)

A young man drives a boat through towering reeds in the marsh of Chabaish, Iraq. The marshes, a lush remnant of the cradle of civilization, were reborn after the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein when residents dismantled dams he had built a decade earlier to drain the area in order root out Shiite rebels. (Susannah George / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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A fisherman casts his net into the Chabaish marsh in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Upstream electrical dams and irrigation projects have reduced the flow of freshwater, allowing saltwater from the Persian Gulf to seep in. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

A fisherman casts his net into the Chabaish marsh in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Upstream electrical dams and irrigation projects have reduced the flow of freshwater, allowing saltwater from the Persian Gulf to seep in. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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Women gut and sell fish at a market in central Chabaish, Iraq. In the largely agrarian society in Iraq’s vast wetlands, women comprise a sizeable proportion of the workforce, as they’re engaged in fishing, raising buffalo and selling them in local markets. However, farming and sewage run-off have depleted fishing stocks, forcing some fisherfolk to resort to using car batteries and chemicals. (Susannah George / AP)

Women gut and sell fish at a market in central Chabaish, Iraq. In the largely agrarian society in Iraq’s vast wetlands, women comprise a sizeable proportion of the workforce, as they’re engaged in fishing, raising buffalo and selling them in local markets. However, farming and sewage run-off have depleted fishing stocks, forcing some fisherfolk to resort to using car batteries and chemicals. (Susannah George / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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Water buffaloes rest in the Chabaish marsh in Nasiriyah, Baghdad. Even after they were restored in 2003, the largest wetlands in the Middle East are imperiled again, by government mismanagement and new upstream projects. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

Water buffaloes rest in the Chabaish marsh in Nasiriyah, Baghdad. Even after they were restored in 2003, the largest wetlands in the Middle East are imperiled again, by government mismanagement and new upstream projects. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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A farmer transports feed for livestock along a canal in Iraq’s southern marshes in Chabaish. The majority of the wetland’s inhabitants raise water buffalo and fish to support their families, but due to decreased water quality and low fish yields, the region is mired in poverty. (Susannah George / AP)

A farmer transports feed for livestock along a canal in Iraq’s southern marshes in Chabaish. The majority of the wetland’s inhabitants raise water buffalo and fish to support their families, but due to decreased water quality and low fish yields, the region is mired in poverty. (Susannah George / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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Young children take water buffaloes and goats to an island paddock in the Chabaish marsh in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. The overwhelmingly Shiite region rose up against Saddam’s Sunni-dominated government in 1991 after his crushing defeat in the Gulf War, and the rebels took cover in the marshes as they battled his forces. The government responded by deliberately draining 20,000 square kilometers of wetlands, turning the area to desert and displacing half a million people. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

Young children take water buffaloes and goats to an island paddock in the Chabaish marsh in Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, Iraq. The overwhelmingly Shiite region rose up against Saddam’s Sunni-dominated government in 1991 after his crushing defeat in the Gulf War, and the rebels took cover in the marshes as they battled his forces. The government responded by deliberately draining 20,000 square kilometers of wetlands, turning the area to desert and displacing half a million people. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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A fisherwoman prepares to spread her netting beside a bank of reeds in the marsh of Chabaish, Iraq. After the 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam, residents dismantled the local dams, allowing the waters to return, and with them the plants and animals on which the community relied. But still, today’s marshlands are only around 14 percent of what they were in the 1970s. Most of the Iraqis who lived in that era speak of a paradise lost. (Susannah George / AP)

A fisherwoman prepares to spread her netting beside a bank of reeds in the marsh of Chabaish, Iraq. After the 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam, residents dismantled the local dams, allowing the waters to return, and with them the plants and animals on which the community relied. But still, today’s marshlands are only around 14 percent of what they were in the 1970s. Most of the Iraqis who lived in that era speak of a paradise lost. (Susannah George / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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Fisherman gather in the morning at an ad hoc market along a main canal in the marsh of Chabaish from where merchants buy fish to transport and sell to markets in the nearby cities of Nassariyah and Najaf in Iraq’s south. (Susannah George / AP)

Fisherman gather in the morning at an ad hoc market along a main canal in the marsh of Chabaish from where merchants buy fish to transport and sell to markets in the nearby cities of Nassariyah and Najaf in Iraq’s south. (Susannah George / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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A view of the setting sun over an island paddock in the marshlands of Nasiriyah, Iraq. The marshes were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016, and there have been talks of exploiting their tourism potential. Southern Iraq has largely been spared the violence that has gripped other parts of the country, and the marshes were always hundreds of miles (kilometers) away from the front lines in the war against the Islamic State group. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

A view of the setting sun over an island paddock in the marshlands of Nasiriyah, Iraq. The marshes were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016, and there have been talks of exploiting their tourism potential. Southern Iraq has largely been spared the violence that has gripped other parts of the country, and the marshes were always hundreds of miles (kilometers) away from the front lines in the war against the Islamic State group. (Nabil al-Jurani / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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A fisherman paddles through Iraq’s southern marshes at dawn in Chabaish, Iraq. (Susannah George / AP)

A fisherman paddles through Iraq’s southern marshes at dawn in Chabaish, Iraq. (Susannah George / AP)

UPDATED ON OCT 27, 2017 04:20 PM IST
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