In 2003 UN Environment initiated a project to collect and synthesize information on the chronic environmental problems and environmental impact of conflict in Iraq. The resultant Desk Study on the Environment in Iraq concluded that damage from the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980’s, the 1991 Gulf War, environmental mismanagement by the former Iraqi regime, the economic impact of sanctions and underlying environmental stresses have resulted in severe damage. Following on the findings of the Desk Study, UN Environment undertook the following work:
Throughout 2005 UN Environment remotely managed the assessment of five contaminated industrial sites by teams of Iraqi experts from the Ministry of Environment. UN Environment’s findings were released in the report Assessment of Environmental ‘Hot Spots’ in Iraq.
The environmental assessment identified a cyanide contaminated site south of Baghdad as requiring immediate risk reduction measures. UN Environment successfully completed clean-up of the site.
Environmental institutions and coordination
As part of the assessment process and to address the large number of remaining contaminated sites, UNEP provided technical training to 300 Iraqi experts to support the development of an Iraqi managed site assessment and remediation programme.
Environmental law and policy
UN Environment provided technical legal assistance with the drafting of the Iraqi framework environmental law.
The Desk Study identified the Mesopotamian Marshlands as having been almost completely destroyed by 2002 as a consequence of drainage work and upstream damming. UN Environment designed and coordinated the implementation of the Iraqi Marshlands Observation System and the systematic reflooding of the wetlands.
Environmental information and education
UN Environment worked with WHO toward the establishment of an Environmental Information Center within the Ministry of Environment, which could provide a central depository for baseline data.