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Evaluation Meeting for Support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshlands Project (Phase III) - Summary Report (page3)

3 September 2008
Kyoto International Community House, Kyoto, Japan

Session Summary

Session 2: Reporting - Overview of Meeting Programme and UNEP Marshland Initiatives

This session’s objective was to introduce an overview of the meeting programme and to present activities, outputs and the progress of the UNEP Iraqi Marshlands Project followed by discussion. Mr. Surya Chandak, Officer-in-Charge and Deputy Director of IETC, introduced the goals and objectives of the Marshland Project. He also explained the objectives of the evaluation meeting and outlined overall programme of the evaluation meeting. The key question to be addressed in this session was: to what extent has the UNEP project addressed the following project objectives:

  1. In monitoring and assessing marshland conditions
  2. In building the capacity of Iraqi decision makers and community representatives
  3. In implementing EST options for drinking water, sanitation and wetland management
  4. In facilitating policy and strategy formulation and coordination for marshland management

Dr. Chizuru Aoki, Iraq Project Coordinator, and Dr. Ali Al-Lami, National Coordinator, jointly presented the activities and outputs during the implementation of UNEP Iraqi Marshlands Project Phases I, II-A, II-B and III to date. Dr. Aoki and Dr. Al-Lami presented various activities and outputs to address the project objectives as follows:

  • Monitoring and assessing marshland conditions: The project generated data and information on the marshland conditions and created a data platform to enable data and information exchange. Phase I activities included water quality and biodiversity monitoring, which was carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment. This monitoring found that all samples contained fecal coliform and high concentrations of total dissolved solids, underlying the need to treat the water for drinking to protect the human health. In Phase I, the project also supported the establishment of the Marshland Information Network (MIN) to enable data sharing and the Iraqi Marshlands Observation System (IMOS) to report on the marshland water and vegetation recovery data. Both systems have been formally handed over to relevant ministries in 2006 and 2007 following a UNEP-managed operational period and capacity building.

    In phase II-A, the project supported field surveys of socioeconomic conditions and solid wastes, in partnership with the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works and Thi-Qar University. The surveys were conducted as direct response to the Iraqi priorities to obtain data from individual villages for the first time. Phase II-A also included an analysis of data compatibility among different systems, and supported the expansion of the MIN to the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works and other organizations, complemented with targeted training on data management inside and outside Iraq.

    In Phase III, the project has supported the follow-up water quality and biodiversity survey, together with the Ministry of Environment. These data-related initiatives have generated previously missing data on what is actually happening in the Marshland, and enabled the sharing of reliable data that are necessary to develop marshland management plan and policy formulation.

  • Building the capacity of Iraqi decision makers and community representatives: The project organized 14 training courses outside Iraq and 8 courses inside Iraq on various technical, policy, and data-management subjects. In total, 400 Iraqi personnel, including representatives from relevant national and governorate agencies, academia, local communities, and NGOs have been trained outside Iraq. Training materials for all courses have been made available in Arabic and English, and distributed free of charge. Many of the overseas training sessions have been conducted in cooperation with leading institutions in Japan and the Middle East, such as GEC, ILEC, JICA, Cairo University, and American University in Beirut. In particular, cooperation with GEC and ILEC were acknowledged with appreciation during the presentation. Such cooperation enabled the participants to learn from international lecturers with advanced knowledge and a wide range of expertise, and provided opportunities for site visits and case studies relevant for the Iraqi case.

    For in-country training, the courses were primarily organized at the Ministries of Environment and Water Resources, as well as universities, by those who received training outside Iraq, thereby contributing to project planning and implementation. For Phase II-B, the order of training was modified in response to recommendations from the Iraqi institutions to start with in-country training first for basic learning and for selecting candidates for further training. The selected candidates then participated in training overseas for more advanced coverage of topics.
  • Implementing EST options for drinking water, sanitation and wetland management: In Phase I, the project has implemented 3 types of EST options, namely for drinking water, for sanitation and wastewater treatment, and for wetland and water quality management. For drinking water, six water stations with pre-packaged and modular system for enabling future expansion have been installed with distribution networks, and are serving up to 22,000 persons. UNEP supported operations and management of the plants for over 1 year, and then officially handed over the plants to the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works in 2007 with a warehouse with spare parts and chemicals, and with training for operations and management. For sanitation, the pilot project was implemented in Al-Chibayish after some challenges in securing local support for the proposed sanitation systems in another location. Using the constructed wetland EST, the plant has been designed and constructed to serve 170 inhabitants. The system has been officially handed over for monitoring and maintenance to Thi-Qar University in 2007, with financial support.

    In Phase II-B, the pilot project has extended drinking water provision to one additional village called Al-Ghreej. In Phase III, the pilot project has consisted of two parts. The first part is the water quality and wetland improvement pilot project with the use of phytotechnology and natural flow regulation, targeting the Main Drain. This work has been undertaken under an implementation agreement with the Ministry of Environment, and the work is ongoing. The second part is enhancing drinking water provision with alternative energy. The project has been testing the use of photovoltaic arrays to supplement power needs with solar energy for a drinking water facility, and solar stills for household level water treatment. The work is ongoing.

    The project organized community level initiatives to build better understanding and experiences among community residents about practical marshland management in Phases I, II-B, and III. During Phase I, awareness campaigns about not using poison for fishing and other environmental concerns targeting youths, religious leaders, and community groups were proposed and implemented by local organizations, with support from UNEP. During Phase II-B, 712 women in 15 rural communities participated in practical workshops to increase their awareness on the environment, health, and social issues, and received personal kits containing practical goods. In Phase III, women in 9 additional villages took part in similar practical workshops, and were visited 1 month after the workshops to evaluate changes in personal attitudes and behaviour to protect the environment and health. These initiatives, while labour intensive, were appreciated highly by the local communities, as they provided visible and practical assistance to the rural residents who had not received other direct international assistance.

    Throughout the project phase, UNEP and the Iraqi partners have focused on providing direct benefits for the local population, and have also demonstrated environmentally sound management practices that work for Iraqi conditions, so that they could be replicated in other places by Iraqi institutions in the longer term. Independent evaluations have also found that drinking water and sanitation pilots have contributed to the re-development of local communities.

  • In facilitating policy and strategy formulation and coordination for marshland management: UNEP has facilitated donor coordination on the Iraqi Marshland management, and provided input to mainstream the environment into the UN Country Team programming and to develop the marshland management masterplan. The project has established working cooperation with Iraqi institutions at the local, governorate, national, and water basin levels.

In summary, the project has addressed the objectives set forth at the commencement of the initiative, and generated tangible results thus far. This has been made possible with continuous dialogue and partnership with Iraqi institutions.