Sunday, January 30, 2011

The marshlands of southern Iraq, a postscript

Following the amazing programme on BBC TV about the current efforts to restore the marshes, I got hold of a copy of "The Marsh Arabs", the classic account by the explorer/adventurer Wilfred Thesiger, who first visited the area in the 1950s and on several more occasions during the following decades. If you have a love of wild places and an interest in the people who inhabit them, please read it. Here is a taster:
One morning Falih and a cousin of his called Daud punted me towards the mainland. We soon left the qasab and emerged on to a waste of fallen bulrushes covering many square miles. The new growth was rising through the tumbled grey of last year's flags, but was not yet high enough to obstruct my view, even from the bottom of the canoe. The place was alive with birds. Snipe sprang into the air beside us and zigzagged away, and flocks of small waders swept past. Ruffs and godwits, curlews, redshanks and avocets, among other waders I could not identify, fed on patches of open mud. There were spoonbills, ibises and egrets, and grey and purple herons. Once we heard the far-off crying of geese. Harriers hunted low over the rushes, and the usual eagles circled overhead.
It will be a miracle if the marshes are restored to their former glory, so thank God for Dr Alwash and those who are working with him to bring that miracle about. Let's hope that the recent increase in the breeding population of the rare Marbled Teal is a harbinger.

No comments: