"Surveying the region's ecology is, in some ways, the easy part. Since the rivers were diverted back into the area, the plants and animals seem to be returning with remarkable speed. The region has naturally low rainfall, and so relies on the yearly influx of spring meltwater that flows into the two mighty rivers from the Kurdistan mountains. From rough-and-ready species counts, numbers in the two marshy areas restored in phase one of the project seem to be comparable to or even higher than those in a marsh straddling the Iranian border, which was never dried out.
But as with all ecology, getting the facts takes time. The Canada-Iraq Marshlands Initiative has surveyed 28 sites to find out whether the marsh ecosystem is genuinely returning to normal after three decades as a salt-encrusted desert. It's still too early to tell whether the same species will return, or whether the project is creating something entirely new. Answering that question will take another two or three years, the researchers think.
But this is more than just a wetland conservation project. Iraq is one of the most politically turbulent countries in the world, and even just setting up a project involving Iraqi scientists working with US, Canadian, Italian and Japanese counterparts, as well as the United Nations Environment Programme, is a staggering achievement."