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Iranian authorities open lifeline to thousands of Marsh Arabs

The Iranian authorities will Thursday open the al Karkha dam in Iran to allow huge reserves of water to flow freely into the al Huweiza marshes of Iran and southern Iraq, announced a British Member of the European Parliament, IRNA reported.

Iranian efforts to re-flood the area could result in up to one third of the marshlands being revived, said Baroness Emma Nicholson in statement received by IRNA in Brussels this evening.

Emma Nicholson, Chair of the AMAR International Foundation and long-term campaigner for the rights of the Marsh Arabs, has been able to reveal the exclusive news today while in southern Iraq, noted the statement.

Already the Iranian Government has allowed significant amounts of water to flow back into the marshes.

Water released several weeks is now having a profound effect on the lives of remaining Marsh Arab communities in the region. Already many existing Marsh Arabs have been able to return to their traditional way of life.

"The opening of the al Karkha dam, on top of existing Iranian efforts to re-flood the marshlands, will be a hugely significant development," said Nicholson.

"This is a major boost for not only the Marsh Arab people, but also one of the great environmental areas of the world."

Emma Nicholson, however, has been cautious not to underestimate the scale of the task ahead.

"While we welcome the policy of the Iranian Government, vast areas of the marshlands remain desolate and the suffering of the Marsh Arabs continues. The AMAR Foundation remains at the forefront of efforts to provide immediate assistance and address the longer-term catastrophe," she said.

Baroness Nicholson has been appointed first Special Envoy for the World Health Organisation to promote health as a tool for peace and development in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region with special responsibility for Iraq.

She is Vice-Chairman of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy and Rapporteur on Iraq and Romania.

... Payvand News - 6/19/03 ... --

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