Eden in Iraq: The Wastewater Garden Project

A project of:
Nature Iraq (NGO) and the Institute of Ecotechnics with artist Meridel Rubenstein, environmental engineers Dr. Mark Nelson and Dr. Davide Tocchetto, and Jassim Al-Asadi of Nature Iraq (NGO).

The Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project is a humanitarian water remediation project, expressed through wastewater garden design and environmental art, that provides environmental and cultural regeneration to a desiccated region of southern Iraq. The Garden will provide urgently needed health and clean water for southern Iraqis, their children, and future generations to come. This project, sponsored by NGO Nature Iraq in Iraq and the Institute of Ecotechnics in both the UK and USA, is a response to decades of conflict in this region and continued tension due to climate change, external water rights violations, and social upheaval.  Initial support since 2011 spans from Iraqi municipalities, the region and State, to international sources. 

The wastewater garden features locally significant design details, making it a beautifully designed public site that emphasizes cultural heritage, while restoring health and offering ecological education. It will provide a sanctuary for reflection and relaxation in a continuously unsettled time. The garden design will engage with local craftspeople, local materials, and ancient crafts e.g. reed structures, earthen brick, ancient cylinder seal patterns for ceramic tiles, and a floral design layout that is inspired by Mesopotamian embroidered wedding blanket patterns (now being revived locally).

We offer a solution to contaminated water through the utilization of simple and sustainable wastewater recycling technology to support a garden that embodies the rich cultural heritage and tradition of the marshes and the Marsh Arab community. 

After seven years of intensive fieldwork, groundwork, and design preparation, we seek 1.6 million dollars to build a 26,500 square meter (6.5 acre, 2.6 hectare) Public Wastewater Garden with the support and aid of our in-country partner, Iraq’s first environmental NGO, Nature Iraq. The wastewater garden features locally significant design details making it a public site that emphasizes cultural heritage, while restoring health and offering ecological education. We currently await the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources, who has committed to building the first third of the garden composed solely of reeds at El Chibaish at 15% of our total budget.

For those millions of migrants afloat in Europe today, the Marsh Arabs of the Mesopotamian marshes in Southern Iraq offer a stunning example of a violently displaced people returning home to heal and restore their desertified land.