Viewing cable 04ROME1092
Title: Iraq: Italian-Sponsored Marsh Restoration Program

04ROME10922004-03-18 17:56:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Rome
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS  ROME 001092 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
SUBJECT: Iraq: Italian-Sponsored Marsh Restoration Program 
¶1. (U)  The Italian Ministry of Environment and Territory 
(MOE) has provided 2.1 million euros (1 euro 1.22 USD) 
through the Washington-based "Iraq Foundation" for a 
marshland recovery and water sanitation program called "New 
Eden."  The Italian government will likely provide an 
additional 10 million euros in funding, according to an 
Italian expert working on the project.  Corrado Clini, MOE 
Director General for International Affairs and Sustainable 
Development, was in Baghdad March 14-15 to promote the 
program, which currently involves two projects: the 
scientific monitoring of the re-flooding of the Abu Zareg 
marsh and a feasibility study on using flared gas from oil 
wells to power desalination plants.  At present, New Eden 
represents the only environmentally focused Iraqi 
reconstruction project funded by the Italian Government. 
MOE funding will primarily support long-term planning, 
scientific monitoring, and feasibility studies associated 
with marsh recovery and water desalinization and sanitation. 
While the project fills an important environmental need, New 
Eden also follows the pattern of other Italian-sponsored 
efforts in Iraq by funding planning and surveys in the hopes 
of steering future contracting business to Italian firms. 
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Italian Money for Start-up, Research, and Planning 
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¶2. (U)  The MOE and the Iraq Foundation, a Washington, DC- 
based NGO founded in 1991 by Iraqi exiles, started the New 
Eden project in July 2003.   The MOE has pledged 2.1 million 
euros to date.  Augusto Pretner, a hydraulic engineer, 
senior advisor to the MOE, and one of the leading Italian 
experts on New Eden, told Econoff the Ministry is likely to 
give an additional 10 million euros.  The MOE and the Iraq 
Foundation describe New Eden as complementary to USAID work 
already underway to restore Iraqi marshlands.  Iraq's 
Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Water Resources 
(IMWR), and the Ministry of Public Works are partners in New 
Eden and, according to Pretner, the three Iraqi ministries 
have collectively pledged 100,000 euros to the program. 
¶3. (U)  According to a draft report Pretner provided to 
Econoff, MOE grants have funded twelve fact-finding 
expeditions to the marshlands between August 2003 and March 
2004 and an initial survey/cost analysis of restoration for 
the entire marsh region.  Azzam Alwash, an exiled Iraqi 
civil engineer who is a board member of both the Iraq 
Foundation and the Iraqi Forum for Democracy, took over as 
full-time project director in August 2003.  The program also 
includes a team of six Italian and three American engineers 
and scientists, among others. 
¶4. (U)  From the initial large-scale survey, the MOE and the 
Iraqi Foundation have chosen two smaller projects to 
implement immediately: scientific monitoring of the re- 
flooding of the Abu Zareg marsh and a feasibility study for 
using flared gas from oil wells to power desalinization 
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Project One: Scientific Monitoring of Abu Zareg Marsh 
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¶5. (U)  The MOE, the Iraq Foundation, and the IMWR, will 
conduct scientific monitoring of the re-flooding of the 200- 
square-kilometer Abu Zareg marsh, located in the southwest 
section of the central marshlands.  The IMWR began re- 
flooding 60 square kilometres of the marsh in May 2003. 
Among other work, the Foundation will document conditions in 
the un-flooded portions prior to inundation; replant reeds; 
restock fish; and monitor water levels and water and soil 
quality as the re-flooding continues.  The Foundation also 
plans to use Abu Zareg to train 20 Iraqi experts from the 
Iraqi Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water 
Resources to conduct scientific monitoring.  The Iraq 
Foundation will also design dams and levies that, if 
constructed, could recreate the original flood cycle of the 
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30,000 Marsh Arabs Could Resettle in Abu Zareg 
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¶6. (U)  The Foundation hopes Abu Zareg will provide lessons 
on restoration techniques that could be applied to the 
rehabilitation of Iraq's larger marshes.  Restoration of the 
Abu Zareg would also allow 30,000 marsh Arabs to resume 
their previous way of life, if they so chose to return to 
the marshland.  The Foundation estimates that implementing 
the Abu Zareg project will cost 3,850,000 euros, of which 3 
million would go toward building the dams and levies.  At 
present, the MOE is funding only the monitoring and design 
work and has no plans to fund these construction costs. 
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Project Two: Desalinization to Combat Brackish Water 
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¶7. (U)  MOE funding will also support a feasibility study by 
the Iraq Foundation and the Iraqi Ministry of Public Works 
on harnessing natural gas from oil wells to power 
desalinization plants in the Nassiriyah-Basrah-Qurnah 
triangle in southwest Iraq, an area that also encompasses 
the Abu Zareg marsh.   Presently, most water available to 
the triangle's 3.5 million inhabitants is brackish due to a 
combination of high natural salinity and poor water resource 
management.  According to the draft report, the Iraq 
Foundation believes methane from oil wells, currently 
flared-off as an unwanted by-product, could provide enough 
cheap electricity to power a network of desalinization 
plants.  (The same feasibility study will also explore the 
use of solar or wind energy to desalinate water in remote 
villages.)  Current MOE grants will only cover the 550,000- 
euro cost of the feasibility study.  The Foundation also 
hopes to build a 3-million-euro working desalinization pilot 
project, but this will require finding additional donors. 
Another Proposal: Marshland "Master Plan" 
¶8. (U)  The New Eden project has also proposed a "master 
plan" study for country-wide marsh restoration.  Pretner 
said the additional 10-million-euro Italian pledge, if 
finalized, would go toward this "master plan."  The "master 
plan" envisions expanding the scientific monitoring of Abu 
Zareg to a much wider area of the marshlands, increasing 
training for Iraqi experts, and, possibly, constructing a 
laboratory for water and soil analysis.  Pretner said the 
MOE may also help construct an early-warning system to alert 
the local population of dangerous floods.  (The MOE funded 
development of a similar early-warning system for Italy.) 
The 10 million "master plan" will also include a 
comprehensive long-term planning study for marsh restoration 
and rehabilitation of water infrastructure in southwest 
¶9. (U)  According to Pretner, the MOE is very pleased with 
the Iraq Foundation as a partner and views the close 
cooperation with the Iraqi ministries and Iraqi experts as a 
particular strength of New Eden. 
¶10. (U)  While this project helps address a critical 
environmental need for Iraqi, Italy hopes New Eden will 
generate contracts for water infrastructure, a field where 
Italian firms believe they are particularly competitive.  In 
this sense, New Eden is similar to the Iraqi Transport 
Master Plan, another planning initiative partially funded by 
the Italian Government, with its goal of steering contracts 
to Italian companies.  END COMMENT. 
¶12. (U)  Post would be happy to share documents related to 
the New Eden project.  Contact Econoff Gregory May at 
 2004ROME01092 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED