BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 18:33 GMT
Iran blames Iraq for border fires
Picture (courtesy of Amar) showing how the Marsh Arabs region once looked
Iran says the Iraq wants to force out Shia fighters

Iran has complained to Iraq about huge fires which are reported to be burning large areas of the former marshland on the border between the two countries.

marsh arabs
The Marsh Arabs lived in the area for 6,000 years
A statement by the Iranian environmental protection agency said the fires had begun more than two months ago, and were still burning now.

It said thick clouds of smoke were being pushed across the border by a south westerly wind, and the resulting pollution was affecting people in many towns and villages on the Iranian side.

It added that the development had been reported to the Iranian foreign ministry, which had taken it up with the Iraqi Government.

The marshes
10,000 sq kms between the Tigris and the Euphrates
Marsh Arabs who inhabit the area build houses known as sarifas, which are constructed of reeds
Main mode of transport is a long, slim canoe, known as a mashuf.
Officials in south-west Iran have been quoted as blaming the Iraqi military for starting the fires, speculating that it may have been a pre-emptive move, aimed at driving out rebel Shia fighters in advance of a possible American attack on Iraq.

The main Iraqi Shia opposition group, which is based in Iran, did not believe that to be the case on this occasion.

But it pointed out that the fires would not have been possible had the Baghdad government not dried out much of the marshes of south east Iraq by huge drainage schemes in recent years.

The marshes were a globally important wetland, sustaining a huge volume of wildlife, especially birds, as well as a unique way of life for the marsh dwelling people.

Water cut

The United Nations environment programme has said that about 90% of the marshes have been destroyed, describing it as an environmental catastrophe and a major loss to all humanity.

While Iraq has done most of the damage, part of the wetlands also straddle the border into Iran.

The UN says the surviving portion there is less than half the size it was in the 1970s, because of dam projects which have reduced the water flow into the area.

It has called on the Iranian authorities to allocate sufficient water resources to ensure the survival of a unique and fragile eco-system.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Campanale
"The land lost to the drainage programme has turned to desert"
See also:

21 May 01 | Middle East
16 May 01 | Science/Nature
22 Feb 02 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes