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|Water and Sanitation – Activities: Natural and Cultural Management of the Iraqi Marshlands|
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Iraqi Marshlands project (2004-2009):
Key results and lessons learned
Within the context of Iraqi reconstruction, UNEP, through its International Environmental Technology Centre of the Division of Technology, Industry, and Economics, has spearheaded initiatives to support sustainable management in the Iraqi Marshlands in the previous project which provided immediate assistance to marshland communities and Iraqi ministries focusing primarily on initiatives on the ground. Some of the key results of the previous project are as follows:
Immediate relief was provided to vulnerable populations living in environmentally sensitive areas, through the provision of environmentally sound water and sanitation services up to 25,000 residents in the Iraqi marshlands. Utilization of alternative energy sources and suitable approaches for sanitation and marshland management options were also demonstrated.
Community groups have been empowered and recognized as legitimate stakeholders in environmental management. Community-level initiatives for marshland management have been conceptualized, developed, and implemented with UNEP support.
The Marshland Information Network (MIN) was established among the Iraqi ministries, governorates, local groups, academia, and international organizations – enabling the exchange of data and analysis, and facilitating communication to move towards the development of a marshland management plan. The project provided hardware and software, which have been handed over to the Iraqi side, with extensive capacity building.
Objective data on various aspects of marshlands conditions (such as water quality and biodiversity, vegetative and water cover, socio-economic and demographic surveys) were collected and analyzed with the project support. For many parameters, reliable data did not exist prior to UNEP’s efforts, necessitating Iraqi and other institutions to make intervention decisions based on limited scientific data. Such work, largely carried out by Iraqi partner institutions, has been useful to inform scientifically sound management decision-making based.
A donor coordination mechanism was established and endorsed by Iraqi and international institutions involved in marshland management. UNEP was selected as a liaison to facilitate coordination.
UNEP initiatives, particularly on the Iraqi Marshlands, generated significant media coverage and (rare) good news about Iraqi reconstruction. The project, with the Iraqi Ministry of Environment, helped to raise international awareness about the Iraqi environment and efforts to promote sustainable development initiatives even under difficult conditions.
The UNEP approach was recognized and supported by Iraqi institutions and communities. Local Marshland communities have officially commended UNEP as one of the only international organizations that have made a difference on the ground and improved the lives of the people. The Ministry of Environment has also recognized the Iraqi Marshlands project as a model case of technical cooperation.
Some of the key lessons learnt from the previous Iraqi Marshlands project include the following:
Establishment of local presence and management structure for project implementation is essential
Engagement of stakeholders, especially involvement and buy-in of local groups, is needed to assess real needs, provide security, and maintain initiatives
Constraints of institutional frameworks should be evaluated and built into project programming
Comprehensive programming to encompass data collection, training, to implementation is effective for change on the ground
Long-term reconstruction and development efforts require long-term support
Linkage to the previous project
The development of the UNEP-UNESCO joint project itself is one of the main conclusions reached by Iraqi partners and UNEP on the continued need for assistance and international cooperation for the sustainable management of the Iraqi Marshlands. In addition, this proposal utilizes many of the outputs and results from the first project, including the project implementation structure, information management network, data and assessment results and hardware, as well as the coordination mechanism at the international level.
Regarding the project implementation structure inside Iraq, the project continues to utilize the successful model from the previous project, including coordination with the Project Implementation Unit within the Ministry of Environment, the national coordinator presence, and the network of governorate and local institutions.
Some of the key analyses conducted during the previous project, such as water quality, biodiversity, vegetative cover, etc. are useful for this proposal from two perspectives: (a) they provide historical snapshots of the environmental conditions of the marshland areas, which are useful to compare to new data, and (b) the necessary analytical equipment, software, etc. have been transferred to the Iraqi side with adequate training during the previous project, thereby enabling this proposal to engage Iraqi partners to utilize them with significant cost reduction and with increased local ownership/responsibility taking.