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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IRAQ: Pollution causing cattle deaths in marshlands?

BAGHDAD, 23 June 2008 (IRIN) - Local officials in southern Iraq warned on 23 June that pollution in the marshlands of southern Iraq was responsible for the spread of an unknown disease which had led to the deaths of dozens of cows and buffaloes.

"We call upon the Iraqi government and the Ministry of Agriculture to declare a state of emergency in the marshlands as we can't determine the disease which has been affecting cattle since April," said Mohammed Arif Mohammed, a veterinary officer in Dhi Qar Province.

"It is a cross between foot and mouth disease and a fever known locally as `rotten blood bleeding’. Our first guess at an explanation is that the disease is caused by pollutants in the marshlands and the lack of vaccines," Mohammed told IRIN.

Mohammed could not confirm the number of cattle deaths but estimated that 100-300 cows and buffaloes had died as a result of the disease since April.

Nassiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar where some of the cattle deaths have occurred, is about 400km south of Baghdad and has over 50 percent of the country’s marshlands.

Khalid Ali Moussa, an environmentalist with the environment directorate in Missan, another southern province where cattle deaths have been recorded, said the main problem was that there was no effective governmental supervision to prevent water contamination.

"We can't send our employees all over the marshlands to check on contamination levels for security reasons. Environmental awareness is low, meaning there is reckless dumping of waste material in the marshlands," Moussa said.

Iraq's fabled marshlands were home to millions of native and migratory birds as well as the Marsh Arabs, who fished and grazed water buffalo here for more than 5,000 years.

However, after the first Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein moved to drain the marshes in retribution for a failed Shia uprising. Hundreds of thousands of inhabitants were forced out.

Since the start of the US-led occupation of Iraq in 2003, efforts by the Iraqi government and international organisations to restore the marshes have been gradually reviving the area.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Environment, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


Copyright © IRIN 2008
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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