UNESCO World Heritage Committee Adopts The Decision on the Ahwar of Iraq

On July 23 the 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee unanimously approved a new Decision on the Ahwar of Iraq, the World Heritage property which includes the Iraqi Marshes. The decision followed after a discussion involving the delegations of Turkey, Iran and Iraq, as well as an intervention from Save the Tigris.

Representing Save the Tigris, a coalition of civil society organisations from nine countries concerned with the protection of the Ahwar of Southern Iraq, we would like to comment on the current Draft Decision 44 COM 7B.73 of the World Heritage Center on the World Heritage Property of the Ahwar of Iraq

  • On 12 May 2021 the World Heritage Centre received two notes from the State Party of Turkey relevant for the Ahwar of Iraq. They included clarifications regarding recent transboundary water management between Iraq and Turkey as well as notes on the alterations of the Iraqi Marshes over time. We call on the World Heritage Committee to make these notes publicly available for civil society.
  • We support the call to suspend work on Makhoul Dam as soon as possible. The State Party of Iraq re-launched this dam project without adequate transparency or consultations.
  • We welcome the request of the World Heritage Center to request the state parties of Iraq, Iran and Turkey to undertake a Strategic Environmental Asessment. We believe the World Heritage Center should request for this assessment to focus specificallly on existing and planned dams in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.
  • We would recommend the World Heritage Center to request the State Party of Iraq to take measures to further strengthen law enforcement in the Marshes in order to protect biodiversity, particularly the Law No. 27 of 2009 for Protection and Improvement of Environment which was adopted a decade ago but is lacking enforcement.
  • Oil activities continue to take place in the near vicinity of the Marshes. Oil spills can be observed in the surrounding areas, including heave waste from the oil waters, in the rivers feeding the Marshes. The State Party of Iraq should share environmental impact assessments adjacent the property with the World Heritage Centre, which should verify if they meet international standards. In addition, the State Party of Iraq should clarify which specific areas in the vicinity of the site would be subjected to oil activities. Is the State Party of Iraq willing to install a moratorium on oil exploration and extraction adjacent the property? Additionally, UNESCO should clarify whether oil developments could jeopardize the World Heritage designation of the Ahwar.

Thank you for your attention.

Find the decision 44 COM 7B.73 here at page 64.

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