Photo by Charles Roffey (CharlesFred on Flickr Creative Commons)

Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes, drained under the regime of Saddam Hussein during the early 1990s to punish a local uprising, are recovering nicely due to the efforts of Iraqi conservationists and local inhabitants.

This former Garden of Eden is believed by some scholars to be the actual Garden of Eden mentioned in the Bible. You know, where Adam and Eve frolicked and had that nasty run-in with the snake.

What was nothing but a wasteland nearly a mere 20 years ago is now once again a thriving ecosystem:

The story of this once almost impossible restoration is told in an exhibition of photographs that has opened in the UK. They show the huge expanses of reeds and open water – now at least half the size of the Florida Everglades – where plants, insects and fish have returned, creating a vast feeding area for migrating and breeding birds, including the majestic Sacred Ibis, the endemic Basrah Reed Warbler and the Iraq Babbler, along with most of the world’s population of Marbled Teal ducks, bee-eaters and many more.

–Guardian

Read more about this ecologically positive result of the Gulf War in this piece for the Guardian, entitled Paradise Found: Water and life return to Iraq’s ‘Garden of Eden’.

But don’t go thinking that the wars in the Middle East are all about eco warriors reclaiming Mesopotamian marshes. As it turns out, war is pretty carbon intensive. Of course, in terms of wars – whether you agree with them or not – carbon footprints are probably pretty low on the list of concerns, what with all the bombs going off and all.

Nevertheless, the environmental effects of war must be factored in along with economic, military and socio-political concerns. And this is just what India-based think tank the Strategic Foresight Group attempted to do in a report published last year.

The largest devastation caused to the environment in past Middle East conflicts has been during the Gulf War and the Iran-Iraq war. In the First Gulf War, 10 million barrels of oil were spilt at sea and almost 45 million in the desert. Kuwait suffered from severe landscape degradation with over 20% of tree cover lost. Perhaps the most shocking effect was the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere from the burning oil fields.

–Gitanjali Bakshi, Research Analyst at the Strategic Foresight Group

Read the entire interview and brief on the report here:

Strategic Foresight Group Reports on the Environmental Cost of Middle East Conflicts