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Training Course on Sustainable Management of the Iraqi Marshlands - Summary Report

Support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshlands Project
International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), UNEP DTIE
Damascus, Syria
7-15 April 2008

Organized in cooperation with:
Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD)
UNEP Regional office for West Asia (UNEP-ROWA)


UNEP DTIE IETC organized a training course on Sustainable Management of the Iraqi Marshlands as part of the third phase of UNEP’s on-going project to support environmental management of the Iraqi Marshlands. In order to reflect regional experiences and expertise, IETC partnered with the UNEP Regional Office for West Asia (UNEP-ROWA) and Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD) to organize this nine-day training course.

Capacity building of decision makers and community groups has been identified as one of the critical needs to move towards sustainable management of the Iraqi Marshlands. Recent dialogue between UNEP and the Iraqi side also highlighted an emerging need to help strengthen Iraqi ownership and coordination for the longer-term sustainability of the Iraqi Marshlands management, and to provide comprehensive overviews on key components of sustainable marshland management. This workshop responded to such emerging priority, and complemented the series of training activities on policy and technical subjects carried out in the earlier phases of the UNEP Iraqi Marshlands Project. Funding for the third phase of this project, including the training course, is provided by the Government of Japan.


The overall objectives of the training course were to increase the capacity, skills, and knowledge of Iraqi government officials on key aspects of sustainable management of the Iraqi Marshlands, and to strengthen Iraqi ownership and coordination for the longer-term sustainability of the Iraqi Marshlands management. As such, the course focused on policy, institutional, and technical aspects of wetland and water resource management, biodiversity management and solid waste management, as well as linkages to multilateral agreements. Eleven participants from the Ministries of Environment (MOE), Ministries of Water Resources (MOWR), Ministries of Municipalities and Public Works (MMPW) and Marsh Arab Forum participated in the training course. The course was delivered in English and in Arabic through lectures and discussions, group work, quiz and a site visit. The participants had the opportunity to update their knowledge on the key concepts, and to learn about relevant current practices in the Arab region.


Lecture topics included biodiversity management, wetland management, integrated water resource management, trans-boundary water resource management, solid waste management, sustainable development related to both water and energy, sanitation and health aspects. Resource persons from the Arab region used several case studies and examples to highlight current practices in the region. Resource persons from the UN agencies discussed linkages to multilateral environmental agreements as well as other international conventions. Participants from each ministry briefed about the activities of their ministries in the Marshlands.

The course introduced basic concepts of biodiversity management and wetland management. A representative from the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) provided an overview of the convention the functions of the Secretariat of the CBD. Steps necessary for accession of Iraq to CBD and establishment of national biodiversity management structure were outlined. As Iraq is undergoing the CBD accession process, such overview and ensuing discussion on the implications of being a signatory to CBD provided a useful opportunity for various ministry representatives to better understand the Iraqi obligations and opportunities. The Syrian country experience of being a party to Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) was also presented. The lectures and discussions highlighted the evolving perspectives of biodiversity and its linkage to ecosystem services as well as the human development i.e. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The concept of integrated solid waste management was presented and was followed by examples of sound practices in the region. Experiences and lessons learned from conducting the UNEP solid waste survey in the Iraqi Marshlands were shared. The importance of basic data was highlighted as a necessity to form any management plan.

In the integrated water resource management (IWRM) session, basic principles and management instruments of IWRM were introduced. Citing the case study on water management in Damascus, the increasing pressure on the water resources and the importance of IWRM process was emphasized. The lecture on the trans-boundary water resource management (TWRM) summarized the need for cooperation of countries for sustainable development of a shared resource across countries.

The session on sustainable development focused on environmentally sound alternatives for water provision, targeting solar energy applications that could be applied in marshland communities. Discussions focused on photovoltaic systems for water pumping and solar stills for small-scale applications. Syrian and other Arabic-country experiences were shared. In addition, the relationship between sanitation and health was discussed, followed by current practices and concepts in sanitation.

A session was organized to discuss potential support mechanisms available for continued management of the marshlands both for substantive and financial aspects through multilateral environmental agreements and other means. In addition to the CBD, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) as well as other UN and bilateral support mechanisms available for Iraq were summarized. UNESCO representatives presented the Convention concerning the protection of the World Natural and Cultural Heritage (World Heritage Convention), and summarized UNESCO activities in Iraq on water resources management and cultural heritage. The participants held a discussion on the follow-up activities necessary for the world heritage inscription process for the Iraqi Marshlands, which the Iraqi Government included in the national list of tentative sites in 2003.

Site Visits

The training course included a site visit to provide practical learning opportunities on the relevance of integrated water resource management and the consequences of increasing water demand and manmade interventions. The group started the visit from Damascus and traveled upstream of the Barada River, one of the main water channels for Damascus, to the Barada Valley and its vicinity. Various stops and lectures included historical practices of agro-biodiversity management, water source protection and recreational use of the Figeh Spring, which is the main source of drinking water for the City of Damascus. Additional topics included water resource management for agricultural purposes and the management of an artificial wetland site, called Lake Zarzar. A Syrian biodiversity expert and ACSAD experts provided on-site descriptions.

Group Exercise and Quiz

The training incorporated a group exercise to enhance interactive participation and communication among the participants. Three groups were formed to identify activities that could contribute towards the preparation of marshland management plan. Each group presented its findings at the end of the course. On the final day, UNEP conducted a quiz to appraise the knowledge gained by the participants during this course. The overall high scores indicated that the participants understood the main lessons of the training course.