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The Mesopotamian Marshlands, often refered to as the cradle of civilization, are located between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, the two rivers that feed the marshes. The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the marshes in the flood story, about 2700 BC. Biblical scholars say this place is the Garden of Eden and some believe Noah’s arc landed here. The current marsh-dwellers are the descendants of the ancient Sumerians, a civilization that dates back 5000 years. Like the past, the current inhabitants mostly live from fishing, water buffalo’s and other resources from the marshes.
The marshes, historically covering over 20,000 square kilometers of interconnected lakes, mudflats, and wetlands within modern-day Iraq and Iran, have disappeared. In the late eighties, Saddam Hussain drained large area’s in order to evict the Shia Arabs from the marshes. After the fall of Saddam Hussain, the marshes were partially recovered. However, the construction of dams upstream, especially in Syria and Turkey and downstream drainage projects, once again threaten the livelihoods of the marsh Arabs.