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Evaluation Meeting for Support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshlands Project (Phase III) - Summary Report (page4)

3 September 2008
Kyoto International Community House, Kyoto, Japan

Session Summary

Session 3: Reporting - Results and Impacts of UNEP Marshlands Project – Phase I, II-A, II-B and III

The objective of this session was to report on the results achieved by the project and its impacts from its inception to now by the representatives from the Iraqi side. Speakers for this session were Mr. Sarmad Faik Mansour, Director, International Treaties Department, Ministry of Environment of Iraq, and Mr. Haitham Obaid Riwaih, Deputy Director General, Urban Planning Directorate, Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works of Iraq.

Mr. Mansour indicated that the Iraqi Marshlands project has had a great impact for Iraq and the Marshland communities, and the Marsh Arabs are now finding it easier to resettle in the region. The project has also had a significant impact for the Ministry of Environment, especially through capacity building and the information network. The specific project results and impacts from the perspective of Ministry of Environment are summarized as follows:

  • Implementation of EST options, especially installation of reverse osmosis units for drinking water provision, has had a great impact on providing potable water and ultimately playing a large role in the return of the Marsh Arabs. Mr. Mansour reported that some units are in need of repair and are out of order from lack of spare parts. The sanitation pilot system was also reported to be having operational problems due to lack of water (due to unusual climatic conditions).
  • The Marshland Information Network (ESTIS) system is considered as one of the most important elements in the project for the Ministry, and the information being uploaded on the site is being constantly updated and enhanced. It is hoped to serve as an important source of information and data for scientists and scholars.
  • Training courses have had a great impact on enhancing staff's capabilities and resilience, as they have shown vast improvement and are making their own initiatives. The Ministry has, however, faced significant problems in keeping the trained staff as they were offered more prominent positions in other institutions, primarily due to limited number of permanent staff positions within the Ministry.
  • Public awareness campaigns have been beneficial for marsh communities to raise awareness on environmental and health issues. These campaigns have also given good opportunities to engage Iraqi NGOs. Mr. Mansour also suggested that small scale projects to improve food supply and livelihoods as alternatives.
  • Field surveys on socioeconomic conditions and solid wastes have provided useful information to the Ministry in formulating its future policies and strategies, and drafting of investment projects.

Following this presentation, several clarifications and follow-up comments were provided as follows:

  • Various measures have been put into place by the project to ensure sustainability of the pilot operations. The project established a central warehouse in Basrah with spare parts and chemicals to serve the drinking water facilities. The facility operators have been trained extensively, and some of them have undergone training at the plant manufacturing facility in Italy. Prior to the official handover to the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works in 2007, the facility operations were supported by the project for over 1 year in order to enable the Iraqi side to gain sufficient experience and knowledge for operations and maintenance. Communities, governorates, as well as various directorates of relevant ministries have all been provided with information and contacts throughout the project.
  • The Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works will be requested to provide feedback to UNEP regarding their own assessment of the repair and maintenance status of the facilities, and to facilitate any work needed, as per the hand-over agreement.
  • Her Excellency Mrs. Othman as well as the National Coordinator stated that they would contact the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works for continuous follow-up.
  • The lack of water in the sanitation facility is due to unusual weather patterns that resulted in extremely limited rainfall in Iraq this year, and therefore out of control of this project. The National Coordinator has been in contact with Thi-Qar University, which is national institution the responsible for its operations and maintenance, to ensure proper functioning once the water returns to the area.

Mr. Haitham Obaid Riwaih then presented the project results and impacts from the perspective of the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works. Mr. Riwaih thanked UNEP for its excellent work, and indicated the Ministry has benefited in many ways from the Iraqi Marshland Project as follows:

  • The Ministry got benefits from the project in the filed of drinking water provision. The initial obstacles associated with coordination with many directorates were overcome, by coordinating directly with the Directorate General of Water. Mr. Riwaih recommended that this be taken into consideration for future projects.
  • The Marshland Information Network (ESTIS) system is considered very important and beneficial for the Ministry. There were some problems in setting up the system, which are now solved.
  • Capacity building through training courses has been very welcomed. Continued capacity building is still required in the future. Mr. Riwaih requested that training needs and requirements of various departments be taken into consideration for future training.
  • Field surveys on socioeconomic conditions and solid wastes were of great importance, as they provided database for the preparation of regional development plan in the marsh area and for determining locations of service projects by the Ministry.
  • UNEP is recommended to: (1) continue to operate in all aspects of the programme, especially for drinking water provision, capacity building, and training; (2) contribute to the updating of master planning of marshland communities and supporting infrastructure and service; (3) involve and contribute in the preparation and designs of villages in the marshes to preserve the environment and heritage; (4) implement pilot projects in the field of sewage treatment, drinking water purification with environmentally sound options in the sensitive marsh areas; and (5) provide assistance in preparing a regional development plan with a long-term strategy for development, to be carried out in coordination with various ministries.

Following this presentation, Mr. Bakken commented that UNEP was pleased to hear that the Marshland Information Network (MIN) has had positive impacts, especially given the challenging conditions and process for its set-up inside Iraq. Mr. Bakken also recommended that follow-up measures be introduced regarding the operations and maintenance of the water treatment facilities.