The Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project (2011-present) 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. This project is a collaboration between co-directors artist/photographer Meridel Rubenstein and environmental engineer Dr. Davide Tocchetto, with environmental engineer Dr. Mark Nelson and engineer and managing director Nature Iraq NGO, Jassim Al-Asadi.
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; in 2021, the Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project was chosen as one out of 100 grassroots projects for UNESCO’s Green Citizens Initiative.
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 12 years of intensive fieldwork, groundwork, and design preparation, with contribution of the Iraq Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR), we completed in May 2023 the first third (2.8 acres) of the 10 acre site at El Chibaish. The success of this new constructed wetland in partially cleaning the was has prompted Minister Aun of the MOWR to immediately build 8 new constructed wetlands. Our intention team will participate in this projects, as we continue to raise the $3 million necessary to complete the additional 7.2 acre designed cultural heritage part of the garden. We are being assisted in the endeavor by the MOWR, the United Nations World Food Program, and with the support of our in-country partner, Iraq’s first environmental NGO Nature Iraq. Our team meets weekly by Zoom to move this project forward.
The wastewater garden features locally significant design details making it a public site that emphasizes culture heritage while restoring health and offering ecological education.
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.
To download a PDF proposal of the project, click here.
Eden in Iraq: The Wastewater Garden Project
A project of: artist Meridel Rubenstein, environmental engineers Dr. Mark Nelson and Dr. Davide Tocchetto, and engineer Jassim Al-Asadi, Managing Director, Nature Iraq (NGO).
Sponsored by: Nature Iraq (NGO), S. Iraq and Kurdistan
and the Institute of Ecotechnics, USA and UK.